40 workers laid off at JPL as Congress puts the squeeze on funding

Federal funding cuts continue to impact the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, where 40 workers were laid off last week, the latest notch in a prolonged period of cutbacks for the agency.

It was the second round of layoffs this year for NASA’s JPL, which cut its workforce by 250 people in February and March, agency spokeswoman Veronica McGregor said.

The latest round of layoffs affected the business and facilities divisions, McGregor said. No science or research jobs were affected, she added.

JPL has roughly 5,000 employees, including “several hundred” in business and facilities, according to McGregor.

Funding remains a concern for the agency as lawmakers look to scale back spending for space exploration in the 2012 federal budget. In July, the House Commerce, Justice and Science Committee proposed a $16.8-billion budget for NASA, a 9% reduction from the year prior.

The House proposal is $1.9 billion less than President Obama’s proposed $18.7-billion in NASA spending for 2012.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee proposed a $17.9-billion budget for 2012.

“That situation is still very fluid and it does cause some uncertainty,” McGregor said an in email. “We are closely following the NASA budget discussions in both the House and the Senate. “

Rep, Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) — who serves on the House Commerce Committee — has submitted legislation to restore some of the funding the House committee eliminated.

“Technology research at NASA has been decimated over the last decade,” Schiff said in a July statement, when he introduced a measure to restore $200 million in funding. “If we are worried about America’s place in the world and the emergence of global players like China in space and high-tech fields, this is the place to start.”

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