May 21, 2007
Mr. John G. Stewart
Fellow and NASA Workforce panel member
National Academy of Public Administration
Dear Mr. Stewart:
At the hearing, you testified that IFPTE had seriously mischaracterized the NAPA report and that, specifically, the report did not talk about giving NASA BRAC-like authority. (Indeed your exact quote was: “For example, nowhere in our report do we talk about BRAC-commission; it just isn’t there.”)
To refresh your memory, I have included one of the relevant sections of the NAPA report, which states:
“(p. 59) … if it becomes clear that the current organizational configuration of ten centers does not contribute to a healthy NASA and does not allow NASA to meet its changing mission within its available budget, the Panel believes that the Administrator should work with Congress to gain statutory authorization for a BRAC-type commission to determine whether one or more centers should be closed.”
Your testimony also emphasized NAPA’s criticism of Dr. Griffin’s “10 healthy centers” approach as too “people focused”. NASA’s greatest asset is its people. Any NASA Human Capital plan that is not “people focused” is doomed to failure. Any high-tech entity that seeks to be creative and innovative at the cutting edge of current science and technology cannot have the top-down authoritarian personnel system you seek for NASA to implement, with flexible power to reassign and fire, nearly at will, to meet short-term needs or to get rid of older employees. Many of the best and brightest engineers and scientists will simply refuse to work in such a unpleasant environment and will take jobs elsewhere where they are treated with the “people focused” respect they deserve. That would be a disaster for NASA.
In a discussion after the hearing, a member of NAPA’s senior staff (no irony intended) reiterated to me that the NAPA report does indeed advocate that NASA be given the authority to preferentially target its older retirement-eligible employees for termination in order to open the door to hire the next generation of younger employees.
” (p. 185) The Panel also recommends that, given the immediate need for NASA to begin reshaping its workforce, Congress provide the agency with limited emergency authority to invoke retirement.
… generally speaking, it is not as much of a hardship for someone who is fully eligible for their annuity to retire from their job.”
It is the premise that openly discriminating against NASA’s older employees is a necessary pre-requisite for NASA building its future workforce that IFPTE finds both false and repugnant.
In addition, the fact that the victims of such coercive, non-merit based, personnel decisions would be targeted because they are older and can supposedly handle it financially, is analogous to the calls of yesteryear to fire women employees preferentially because their husbands can support them.
The bottom line is that IFPTE fundamentally disagrees with key elements of the NAPA report and of your testimony, which speak for themselves and require no mischaracterization.
NASA Council of IFPTE locals