NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory To Terminate Hundreds of Jobs Due to Budget Impasse

( – The most important job Congress has is to pass a budget every single year. That is how the government pays the people working for it and funds things like defense and social programs. The current Congress’ failure to pass a 2024 budget has put hundreds of people out of work.

On February 6, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announced it was laying off 8% (530) of its staff. NASA’s only federally funded development and research center decided to cut its employees and about 40 contractors because Congress has not yet passed a 2024 fiscal budget.

In a memo to staff, JPL stated that the agency tried to make changes because of its smaller budget from NASA and the lack of a new fiscal budget from Congress. As a result, the agency had to make hard decisions and reduce the workforce. It went on to say the layoffs were “painful but necessary,” and they would enable the agency to “adhere to [the] budget allocation while continuing [its] important work for NASA” and America.

JPL Director Laurie Leshin spoke to Space News on January 8 and said that she had already warned employees that layoffs could be on the horizon. She explained that she wanted to ensure she was “transparent with the laboratory” about the layoffs and “lower levels of funding.”

The announcement comes a month after JPL laid off 100 contractors. Many were working on the Mars Sample Return (MSR). The decision was related to NASA’s directive in November 2023 to slow down activities related to MSR while the agency was operating on a continuing resolution that Congress passed to keep the government operating without a 2024 fiscal budget.

Lawmakers, mostly from California, where JPL is located, have strongly objected to NASA’s decision to reduce its spending. However, NASA officials pointed out in November that there were huge differences between the budget the US House wanted to pass and the Senate’s suggestion. House lawmakers suggested $949.3 million, while the Senate wanted $300 million.

All of the employees impacted by the cuts were notified on February 7.

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