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Home / jpl

JPL to lay off over 500 workers; notifications expected Wednesday

In a move that has sent shockwaves through the scientific community and workers alike the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena announced layoffs of approximately 530 employees or 8% of its workforce.

The cuts are in response to a decreasing budget allocation from NASA and the ongoing absence of a new fiscal-year spending plan from Congress.

JPL Director Laurie Leshin outlined the necessity of the layoffs in a detailed memo posted on the lab’s website.

“These cuts are among the most challenging that we have had to make even as we have sought to reduce our spending in recent months,” Leshin said.

The reduction will also impact 40 contractors as the organization scrambles to adhere to its current reduced budget.

Leshin instructed most employees to work from home so they can “be in a safe, comfortable environment on a stressful day.”

According to JPL, affected workers will still receive 60 days of salary and, where applicable, severance packages that include transitional support and resources.

The workforce reduction extends to several areas within JPL, encompassing both technical and support sectors. The announcement happened shortly after the laboratory terminated contracts with 100 other workers, who were predominantly involved with the Mars Sample Return mission.

The MSR mission, one of NASA’s flagship projects aimed at collecting soil and rock samples from Mars and returning them to Earth for analysis, has been hit hard by these financial constraints. According to Leshin, NASA’s budget guidance for JPL has been dramatically reduced for the upcoming MSR, leaving the lab with no other choice but to downsize.

California’s members of Congress have criticized of the layoffs. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, expressed disappointment.

“These cuts will devastate workers and Southern California in the short-term, and they hurt the long-term viability of not just our Mars Exploration Program but also many years of scientific discovery to come,” Chu said in a statement. 

“I’m not done, however, helping lead the fight with my California colleagues in Congress to reverse NASA’s premature and misguided budget cuts to the Mars Sample Return Mission,” Chu said. “I’m hopeful in the coming weeks we can work to broker a deal with the Administration and Congress to restore funding to the levels necessary to rehire workers and promote the kinds of scientific discovery JPL has been on the front lines of for decades.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, highlighted the layoffs’ detrimental effect on space exploration and scientific innovation within America while criticizing the funding reductions.

“This unnecessary forced reduction by NASA not only undermines our commitment to the highest scientific priority in this field, but also jeopardizes the livelihoods of dedicated professionals,” said Schiff.

“The fact that NASA put JPL in the position to have to undertake such cuts flies in the face of Congressional intent and raises real concerns about our budgeting process for projects of this magnitude,” Shiff said. “The people behind our nation’s greatest achievements in space exploration deserve our support and commitment — not to lose their jobs because of a political decision.”

Schiff added, “I will be doing everything possible to restore the funding of this critical mission and retain this remarkable workforce. This will not be the end of this mission or this matter.”

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, said, “This premature, unprecedented decision needs to be reversed,” Garcia said. “The changes to NASA’s budget are unfounded and short-sighted, and the consequences are devastating: Hundreds of hard-working Californians laid off, billions of dollars in canceled contracts, and decades of lost science.”

As reported by MyNewsLA.com, LAist and Fox11 Los Angeles

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