Vicki Novak

Vicki Novak

Chief Human Capital Officer

NASA is retooling its workforce to support President Bush's January 2004 directive to return Americans to the moon by 2020 and later send them to Mars. "With the new vision for space exploration comes the challenge to be more innovative in human capital management," says Vicki Novak, the space agency's chief human capital officer.

NASA's toughest workforce challenges-aging employees and an impending wave of retirements-aren't unique or new. What makes the situation worse for NASA, says Novak, is the fact that more than half the agency's workforce is made up of scientists and engineers, and their numbers in the labor market are declining. "Workforce reshaping is necessary to assure that we have the skills and competencies necessary to achieve the vision," Novak told a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee in April.

During her tenure, which will end with her retirement in October, NASA has made leadership development and succession planning a priority. It has devised a method to identify gaps and surpluses in skills and adopted an automated hiring system.

Novak's 25 years of federal service include stints at the departments of Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation. A member of the Senior Executives Association, she arrived at NASA in 1989, serving in several key human resources positions before being named director of personnel in 1993.