Space Shuttle Safety:

Update on NASA's Progress in Revitalizing the Shuttle Workforce and Making Safety Upgrades

GAO-01-1122T: Published: Sep 6, 2001. Publicly Released: Sep 6, 2001.

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In August 2000, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) space shuttle program was at a critical juncture. Its workforce had declined significantly since 1995, its flight rate was to double to support the assembly of the International Space Station, and costly safety upgrades were planned to enhance the space shuttle's operation until at least 2012. Workforce reductions were jeopardizing NASA's ability to safely support the shuttle's planned flight rate. Recognizing the need to revitalize the shuttle's workforce, NASA ended its downsizing plans for the shuttle program and began to develop and equip the shuttle fleet with various safety and supportability upgrades. NASA is making progress in revitalizing the shuttle program's workforce. NASA's current budget request projects an increase of more than 200 full-time equivalent staff through fiscal year 2002. NASA has also focused more attention on human capital management in its annual performance plan. However, considerable challenges still lie ahead. Because many of the additional staff are new hires, they will need considerable training and will need to be integrated into the shuttle program. Also, NASA still needs to fully staff areas critical to shuttle safety; deal with critical losses due to retirements in the coming years; and, most of all, sustain management attention to human capital reforms. Although NASA is making strides in revitalizing its workforce, its ability to implement safety upgrades in a timely manner is uncertain.

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