Shortages of Scientists and Engineers Due to Retirements Unlikely in the 1990s
NSIAD-91-185, Jun 17, 1991
Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the age profile of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) scientists and engineers, focusing on: (1) the potential loss of experienced scientists and engineers between 1990 and 1999; and (2) NASA effectiveness in recruiting highly qualified scientists and engineers.
GAO found that: (1) the annual attrition rate for NASA scientists and engineers was 5.4 percent in fiscal year (FY) 1989 and 4.9 percent in FY 1990; (2) as of September 1990, 11.1 percent of NASA scientists and engineers were eligible for voluntary retirement, and an additional 18.2 percent would become eligible for retirement through 1995; (3) NASA scientists and engineers typically did not retire until almost 3 years after initial eligibility; (4) NASA estimated that the retirement rate of scientists and engineers would increase only slightly between 1990 and 1999 and still fall within in its typical agencywide range of between 20 to 24 percent of the total eligible to retire; and (5) responses of scientists and engineers to a GAO survey indicated that no more than 18 percent of those eligible to retire planned to leave or retire in any given year. GAO also found that: (1) early attention by NASA management to the emerging shortage of experienced scientists and engineers led to increased hiring of personnel who will be available to fill most vacancies created by retirement; (2) NASA did not experience problems hiring a sufficient number of scientists and engineers; (3) a NASA review team concluded that NASA was hiring highly qualified scientists and engineers at both entry- and mid-levels; and (4) NASA strategies for attracting highly qualified personnel included cooperative education agreements with 183 colleges and universities, continuing education for employees, mentor programs, and educational programs to support teachers and students and inform the general public about NASA activities.