NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) just outside Los Angeles will let go of 530 workers and 40 contractors as a cost-cutting measure amid a failure to secure federal funding for the fiscal year.
“These are painful but necessary adjustments that will enable us to adhere to our budget allocation while continuing our important work for NASA and our nation,” a JPL statement said.
The layoffs represent about 8% of the Pasadena, California-based lab’s workforce.
In a memo to employees, JPL Director Laurie Leshin wrote that the lab is waiting for funding from Congress for the Mars Sample Return mission, and that it was already operating under tight budget constraints that resulted in a hiring freeze, reduced MSR contracts and cuts to burden budgets across the Lab.
Some on-site contractors were let go earlier this month in an effort to reduce spending. NASA previously told the JPL to plan for an MSR budget of $300 million, a 63% drop from the previous year.
“Unfortunately, those actions alone are not enough for us to make it through the remainder of the fiscal year,” Leshin wrote. “So in the absence of an appropriation, and as much as we wish we didn’t need to take this action, we must now move forward to protect against even deeper cuts later were we to wait.”
JPL employees have been directed to work from home on Wednesday and those impacted by layoffs will be notified. Those who are let go will receive their base pay and benefits for 60 days.
Those who are eligible will be offered severance packages, “transitional benefits including placement services and other benefits resource information.”
“To our colleagues who will be leaving JPL, I want you to know how grateful I am for the exceptional contributions you have made to our mission and our community,” Leshin wrote. “Your talents leave a lasting mark on JPL. You will always be a part of our story and you have made a positive difference here.”
In post on X, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., said her thoughts were with the impacted JPL workers and their families.
“I’m not done helping lead the fight with my CA colleagues to reverse @NASA ’s premature & misguided budget cuts to the Mars Sample Return mission,” she wrote. “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 @NASAJPL has been on the frontlines of for decades.”
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