Study: Thousands would lose jobs from NASA, NOAA budget cuts

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams on the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Sunita Williams on the International Space Station. NASA/AP

Federal scientific agencies stand to lose thousands of jobs from sequestration, an industry report predicted Thursday.

The Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group for government contractors, found in its study that the automatic cuts set to take effect on Jan. 2, 2013, unless there is a deficit reduction deal would cost 20,500 NASA contractors their jobs in 2013, while the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration could shed more than 2,500, largely in satellite building and operation. AIA based its estimates on the Office of Management and Budget’s guidelines that sequestration would slash both agencies’ budgets by 8.2 percent.

“Such a deep and reckless cut to these agencies would senselessly jeopardize U.S. space leadership and stifle exactly the kind of investment in innovation that our economy needs,” the group wrote in its report.

AIA speculated that because the 2010 NASA Authorization Act prohibits any cuts to its federal workforce through fiscal year 2013, all the jobs the agency losses would come from the private sector contractors.

The report, conducted by George Mason University economist Stephen Fuller, also found that “industry clusters” -- areas with high concentrations of aerospace activity -- would feel the effects of NASA and NOAA budget cuts.

Fuller also conducted an AIA study in July, which predicted 2.14 million job losses from both the public and private sector, should the cuts be implemented. Some experts, however, have said industry claims of mass layoffs as a result of sequestration are deeply exaggerated.

NASA did not rule out the potential for non-civil servant job loss, saying that while it has begun preliminary discussions to plan for sequestration, it does not believe the cuts will ultimately take place.

“We do expect that all sides will reach an agreement,” NASA spokesman Allard Beutel told Government Executive. “That being said, we’re still assessing what impact that it will have if it actually goes through in a couple weeks.”

An official at the Commerce Department, NOAA's parent agency, referred Government Executive to OMB's sequestration report."

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