Commentary: ‘opportunity’ in forcing workers away?

USA's severance package requires former shuttle workers not find employment around Kennedy Space Center. Image Credit: USA

Gov-Elect Rick Scott stated recently that the cuts to the nation’s space program represented an “opportunity.” He said that the talented workforce that is being directed toward the unemployment line – would naturally go to other, new, aerospace companies. Scott must have been unaware of practices at United Space Alliance (USA) – that are forcing many former shuttle workers – out of the state.

These workers have highlighted a clause in their severance package. If they move away from Florida’s Space Coast and do not seek work in their area of expertise in the local area – they will continue to be paid. If they do find work in the space industry at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) – the severance payments are terminated.

It is therefore doubtful that many of these skilled engineers and workers will bother with Brevard County anymore. If workers find employment with either NASA or one of its contractors within a 50-mile radius of Kennedy Space Center – their funds are cut. According to USA this is to avoid workers collecting double from NASA. However, what about space program workers who were laid off in other parts of the country? This doesn’t appear to apply to them as they can find new space jobs and keep all of their severance packages.

It appears a concerted effort to remove NASA’s launch capabilities in and around KSC. The newly-elected Scott is either unaware of this tactic or has yet to understand the repercussions of such a policy. Some recognize that once this highly-skilled workforce has been forced out – they more than likely will not return. The incentive to continue working for NASA tends to diminish when one realizes they will be denied thousands of dollars for doing so.

Proponents of the new plan for NASA hope that these workers will find employment in the commercial space industry that has started to spring up. However, few companies, excluding SpaceX, have brought their businesses to KSC. Given that many of these companies’ philosophies are based on a simplified path to orbit (including a smaller workforce) it is dubious at best that former shuttle workers can find much work with the few new companies that actually have opened shop in or around KSC.

President Barack Obama, Senator Bill Nelson and former Rep. Suzanne Kosmas all pushed to move NASA onto this new path. Many viewed this as an intentional dismantling of the space infrastructure at Kennedy. With the recent revelation of the policies enforced by USA, these arguments gain added credibility. As to what Gov-Elect Scott views as an opportunity, one has to wonder just how well informed he is. It is difficult to view thousands of skilled workers fleeing your state – as an “opportunity.” Workers would have to decide that remaining is was worth the effort. Given the amount of energy that is being placed to have them leave the business – it is doubtful many will bother.

One Comment

  1. If USA is claiming that they are doing this because of legal reasons, are all of the other NASA contractors doing the same thing? This seems a ridiculous excuse to avoid paying severance to people who want to avoid uprooting their families by leaving the area. Shame on USA! (or is it the NASA “new plan” leadership that is forcing their hand?)

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