Congressman Says Agency Needs Better Plan, And Soon
On Tuesday, NASA reluctantly
confirmed there will be far more layoffs at Kennedy Space Center
and other major manned space flight centers across the country,
when the space shuttle program reaches its end in September 2010,
than the public had previously been led to believe.
According to the "Workforce Transition Strategy Initial Report"
issued Tuesday, NASA estimated there will be at least 6,400 jobs
eliminated between FY 2008 and FY 2011 at Kennedy Space Center
alone. Of those 6,400 layoffs, NASA forecasts 4,800 will come all
in one year -- 2011. These numbers could grow if problems arise
with the Constellation program due to technological or funding
Florida Congressman Dave Weldon is a fierce critic of NASA's plan to do
away with the shuttle after 2010 -- understandable, as
his district includes KSC. Last year, he successfully pushed for
House passage of an amendment requiring NASA to issue the job
impact report, and update it twice a year.
Weldon also takes issue with NASA's plan to rely on Russian
spacecraft for US astronauts bound for the International Space
Station during the projected four-year gap between the end of
shuttle flights and full-scale operation of the Orion spacecraft --
a plan Weldon calls "a major foreign policy blunder.
"This report only confirms what I have been saying for the last
several years," Weldon said Tuesday. "The Bush Administration's
space plan is woefully inadequate and unacceptable. The
Administration's current plan is to cede the 'ultimate high ground'
to hostile nations. The Chinese and Russians are celebrating today,
while many on the Space Coast are only now realizing the magnitude
of the absurdity of the current strategy imposed by the
According to Weldon's office, NASA's report also exposed the
agency currently has only a 33% confidence level that it will be
able to have the next manned spaceflight vehicle ready for flight
by 2013. That confidence level rises only to 65% for a launch in
2015... meaning that even if the massive project experiences no
delays or unforeseen issues, the minimum time that America will be
shut out of space is five years.
Weldon notes that news comes as China is working feverishly to
surpass US space dominance, and as Russia becomes increasingly
"While I have been sharing these concerns with my colleagues for
some time now, they have had difficulty grasping what this will
mean not only to East-Central Florida, but to the entire state,"
said Weldon. "My colleagues in the Senate haven't seemed to grasp
the scope of this debacle and the urgency with which we must
"That is why I asked for this report. We need to know the facts
and what the results will be if we don't change course. Pro-space
rhetoric is nice to hear but it does little to address the very
real calamity our Space Coast is facing. I am hopeful that this
dose of reality will bring the delegation together to address this
issue as a state priority," he added.