Bolden Reassures Employees on Fiscal Cliff Consequences

Bolden Reassures Employees on Fiscal Cliff Consequences

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden sent a letter to NASA employees today reassuring them that the agency will not need to furlough anyone immediately if agreement is not reached by January 2 to avoid sequestration.

Negotiations are ongoing between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama on the “fiscal cliff” — a combination of automatic spending cuts that will take place on January 2 due to the sequester provision of the 2011 Budget Control Act and automatic tax increases that will take place as existing tax cuts expire on December 31.

Bolden explained that sequestration would reduce the agency’s budget resources for the rest of FY2013, which ends on September 30.  The cuts “while significant and harmful to our collective mission as an agency, would not necessarily require immediate reductions in spending.”  Therefore, he does not expect “day-to-day operations to change dramatically on or immediately after January 2,” Bolden continued.   He did not rule out furloughs entirely, however, adding that if sequestration remains in effect for an extended period of time, they or other measures might have to be considered, but it would be only after examining other options to reduce costs.    If furloughs become necessary, “requisite advance notice” will be provided.

A recent analysis by George Mason University for the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) concluded that as many as 20,500 NASA contractor jobs could be lost if sequestration takes effect.  It would not cause the loss of NASA civil servant jobs, it said, because the 2010 NASA Authorization Act prohibits NASA from conducting any Reduction-in-Force (RIF), the process the government uses to permanently lay off workers.  The analysis did not discuss furloughs, which are temporary layoffs.

Bolden sounded optimistic about the chances of avoiding the sequester.  “Sequestration was never intended to be implemented, and there is no reason why both sides should not be able to come together and prevent this scenario,” he said.

The sequester provision was included in the Budget Control Act as a “poison pill” to motivate a congressional “supercommittee” to come up with an alternative way to reduce the deficit, but it failed last year leading to the current situation.  The back and forth between Boehner and Obama changes daily and it remains anyone’s guess as to whether they will reach agreement in time.

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