A landmark bill giving NASA greater flexibility to
restructure and revitalize its work force cleared its final
major hurdle today after being passed by the U.S. House. The
NASA Work Force Flexibility Act of 2003 (S. 610, H.R. 1085)
will be presented for the President’s consideration. The U.S.
Senate passed it in November.

Sponsored by U.S. Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and U.S.
Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), the NASA Work Force
Flexibility Act of 2003 builds on existing law. Among other
reforms, it provides the agency additional tools to address the
challenges of the 21st century. It provides NASA the ability to
improve recruitment and retention, and to compete with the
private sector.

“I appreciate Chairman Voinovich’s and Chairman Boehlert’s
support in introducing this important legislation, and the
consideration and support we received in both houses of
Congress,” said NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe. “Within five
years, more than a quarter of the NASA work force will be
eligible to retire. This bill gives us the flexibility we need
to recruit, retain and reward a new generation of engineers,
scientists and managers vital to the future success of this

The legislation also establishes a Scholarship for Service,
which provides financial assistance to science and engineering
students in exchange for a commitment to work for NASA.
“Students enrolling in engineering, mathematics and other
important fields have been declining for many years because we
haven’t been able to get them excited about contributing to
America’s technology future,” added Administrator O’Keefe.
“This measure allows us to better meet the President’s new
vision for exploration by providing better flexibility to
enhance and shape our work force to meet the challenges of

The General Accounting Office has continued to rank
“strengthening human capital” as one of NASA’s top management
challenges. The agency’s over-60 Science and Engineering work
force outnumbers its under-30 employees by nearly 3-to-1. The
potential departure of these individuals represents a dramatic
loss of knowledge, experience and leadership.

The bill adheres to existing merit principles, veterans’
preference and equal employment opportunity guidelines, as well
as supports the rights of labor organizations. NASA involved
its unions, the American Federation of Government Employees
(AFGE) and the International Federation of Professional and
Technical Engineers (IFPTE) in pursuing this important
legislation.Last year, the IFPTE, NASA’s largest union,
endorsed the measure.

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