Constellation's cancellation could affect thousands of jobs

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF)- Cuts to NASA's constellation program could impact thousands of jobs in North Alabama.

A NASA spokesman told WAFF 48 News a meeting at Marshall Space Flight Center was held Friday to inform employees about administrator Charlie Bolden's new plan to "re-purpose" Constellation and what it will mean to MSFC.

The reason for this is that NASA is enforcing the federal Anti-Deficiency Act, which requires contractors to set aside money to cover termination costs in the event that a project is canceled.

NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said several contractors have not been doing that, and with several Constellation projects on the chopping block, those contractors will have to pay nearly one billion dollars to cover the costs.

Bolden plans to scale down work on Constellation to help cover the shortfall, a move several members of Congress have called "illegal."NASA officials admit less work will eventually lead to more layoffs.

NASA estimates that 2,500 to 5,000 contractors across the country could lose their jobs by the end of the year as a result of this plan.

Contractors ATK, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne all have branches located in Huntsville.

ATK or Alliant Techsystems stands to lose the most from the projects' cancellation.

ATK is helping to build the Ares 1 rocket, which the president has axed in his fiscal year 2011 budget.  NASA said ATK is responsible for 500 million dollars in termination costs.

ATK spokeswoman Trina Patterson said the company has 90 employees in Huntsville, and 2,000 overall who work on the Ares project.

"We have received no direction from NASA, so we cannot comment on how we will proceed," commented Patterson.

Boeing is the only big company, so far, to announce layoffs, ranging from 90 to 180, in Huntsville.

When asked about sub-contractor layoffs, Boeing spokesman Ed Memi said their contractors were told to reduce work due to the expected lack in funding.  That means it's entirely possible that smaller sub-contractors have given layoff notices to employees as well.

A Lockheed Martin spokeswoman said they will have to move 600 workers off of the Orion project, but they hope to transfer as many employees as possible to other areas of the company.

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