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Sat, Feb 10, 2024

NASA JPL Begins Layoffs

Rash of Firings Spreads to NASA as Budget Shortfall Widens

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be suffering a round of layoffs "in the absence of an FY2024 appropriation from Congress", with staff told that 8% of them would be cut loose.

The overall loss will affect "approximately 530" of the JPL's staff, with 40 contractors expected to join them in their layoffs. JPL Director Laurie Leshin broke the news in an apologetic note to everyone in her care, saying that the lab is forced to cut its spending in order to keep other projects funded should Congress fail to issue the needed funds.

In addition, she directed employees to work from home on the day of the layoffs, "so everyone can be in a safe, comfortable environment on a stressful day." Those surviving the cuts likely found it was a slow day anyways, since the lab was gatekept to only a short list of authorized personnel. The widespread layoffs also required the entire staff to be on their toes, since those who did receive bad news were instructed to "forward this email to their personal email account immediately, as NASA requires that access to JPL systems be shut off very shortly following the notification". On the bright side, "all impacted employees will continue to receive their base pay and benefits through their 60-day notice period", with severances issued to some. 

"I am writing to share as much detail and clarity on our actions as I can" said Director Laurie Leshin, "Including reviewing the factors that have led to this decision, and our next steps. First, how we got here. Without an approved federal budget including final allocation for MSR FY24 funding levels, NASA previously directed JPL to plan for an MSR budget of $300M. This is consistent with the low end of congressional markups of NASA’s budget and a 63% decrease over the FY23 level. In response to this direction, and in an effort to protect our workforce, we implemented a hiring freeze, reduced MSR contracts, and implemented cuts to burden budgets across the Lab. Earlier this month, we further reduced spending by releasing some of our valued on-site contractors."

"Unfortunately, those actions alone are not enough for us to make it through the remainder of the fiscal year. So in the absence of an appropriation, and as much as we wish we didn’t need to take this action, we must now move forward to protect against even deeper cuts later were we to wait."

"To adjust to the much lower MSR budget levels in NASA’s direction to us, we must reduce our workforce in both technical and support areas of the Lab, and across different organizations. We must streamline our operations while maintaining a level of expertise, creativity, technical agility, and innovation that will enable us to continue to do vital work and deliver on our current missions, including MSR. As I have shared before, the decisions we are making and our path forward are based on our assessment of future mission needs and work requirements across the Lab."

FMI: www.jpl.nasa.gov

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