WASHINGTON — Florida’s Brevard County has been awarded a $15 million federal grant to assist 3,200 area workers who stand to lose their jobs when NASA retires its space shuttle fleet later this year.
The grant was announced by U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis during a June 2 visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.
Deputy NASA Administrator Loriand U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) joined Solis during the event, which took place at the KSC visitors center. A Labor Department press release said the grant money is intended to help workers from major KSC contractors, including space shuttle operator United Space Alliance, ASRC Aerospace Corp. and Boeing, find new jobs.
“During nearly three decades of continuous space shuttle flights, these dedicated and talented workers have helped move our nation — and the world as a whole — forward in a broad range of disciplines,” Solis said in the news release. “Today, these hard-working Americans need and deserve our support, and I am pleased that this grant will allow them to upgrade their skills further and gain access to work opportunities in high demand industries.”
The grant is being awarded to the Brevard Workforce Development Board Inc., which also will serve as the program operator, according to the news release. Funds will help individuals ranging from entry-level workers to highly skilled professionals with services including career guidance assistance, job search skills training, résumé review, skills assessment and labor market information, and will provide additional types of training and continuing education opportunities, according to the release.
“We must take every step possible to maintain the Space Coast’s highly skilled workforce, and this grant will provide critical support to workers and help them find new job opportunities in our community,” Kosmas said in a June 2 news release. “At the same time, I will continue working to minimize the human space flight gap and attract new businesses to the Space Coast in order to strengthen and diversify our economy.”
Up to 20,000 contractor and subcontractor employees could be laid off by the end of the shuttle program, with about 6,000 to 7,000 direct layoffs anticipated in Florida’s Brevard County, the Labor Department said in the release.
Kosmas introduced legislation with Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) in March to minimize the gap between the last flight of the shuttle and the first flight of new commercial crew taxis NASA is counting on for ferrying astronauts to the international space station.
Posey, in a June 2 news release, said he is hopeful the grants will help some displaced workers, but blamed the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama with a series of “ill-advised decisions that have made the workforce needs all the more dire.”
Posey said Obama’s plan to cancel NASA’s space shuttle replacement effort, the Constellation program, jeopardizes U.S. human spaceflight leadership.
“Those poor decisions include: a failure to extend the life of the space shuttle, a decision to terminate the Constellation program without a real plan for future human space exploration and the Administration’s decision to pay the Russians over $1 Billion to launch our Astronauts and cargo to the Space Station,” Posey said in the statement. “Also, the Congressionally-mandated Space Shuttle Workforce Transition Strategy is nearly two years overdue.”