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DRYDEN CUTTING CIVIL-SERVICE WORK FORCE BY 140.

Byline: Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writer

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE - NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center must cut its civil-service work force by nearly 140 employees over the next two years as a result of the space agency's revision of its research work.

Dryden officials still hope to win research work into high-flying, long-endurance unmanned aircraft, quieter supersonic jets and other areas to help make up for the upcoming spending and job cuts.

``Hopefully it will get us into a position where we can be very competitive and build that back up in the out years,'' Dryden director Kevin Petersen said Tuesday. ``I think the opportunities for the future are bright. Near term, we're in kind of a lull.''

NASA's overall budget is going up, but it is cutting aeronautics research - the reason Dryden was established nearly 60 years ago. The center's civil-service work force - about half of Dryden's total employment, with the other half made up of aerospace companies' employees - is to go from 540 now to 403 in two years.

Its baseline budget was $214 million in 2000 and $161 million this year. It is expected to go down to $130 million in fiscal year 2007.

Beyond the $161 million, the center has an additional $23 million coming in this year from projects with other government agencies and industry.

The overall NASA budget proposed for 2006 is $16.4 billion, up 2.4 percent from this year. The proposed budget is about $500 million less than originally envisioned last year when President George W. Bush announced plans for NASA to return to the moon.

While the overall budget is up from last year, aeronautics research, which represents about 74 percent of Dryden's work, is projected to decline after 2006. The proposed budget includes $852 million for aeronautics research in 2006, but the number will drop to $718 million by 2010.

NASA officials plan to concentrate aeronautics research on four ``barrier-breaking'' areas: high-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned aircraft; nonpolluting aircraft; quieter jets; and reduced sonic booms from supersonic aircraft.

Dryden has already done research with a solar-powered high-altitude flying wing called the Helios, a fighter jet reshaped to reduce sonic booms.

``For us, it means less directed work at the center. We're going to have to learn more to compete,'' Petersen said of the space agency's approach.

Dryden will have to compete not only with other NASA centers but with other government agencies and private companies, Petersen said at a luncheon hosted by the Antelope Valley Board of Trade.

Despite the job cuts, Dryden officials do not anticipate forced layoffs. Employees are being offered up to $25,000 to take early retirement or quit. Twenty-six took the buyout in December and officials hope 30 others will take it this month. Others might be transferred to other NASA centers.

The job figures don't include reductions in employees of private companies that work under contract at Dryden. Dryden officials said they assume the number of contractor personnel will be cut based on the reduction or elimination of certain tasks in companies' contracts with NASA.

Charles F. Bostwick, (661) 267-5742

chuck.bostwick(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 23, 2005
Words:520
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