The Economic and Workforce Impacts of Katrina [...] - Christopher T. King and Bruce Kellison

The Economic and Workforce Impacts of Hurricane Katrina and Ongoing Demographic Changes on the Space Shuttle Program
Principal Investigators: Christopher T. King and Bruce Kellison
Sponsor: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Research Partners: IC2 Institute, Bureau of Business Research
Project Duration: June 2006 - March 2007
Description:

In 2004 and 2005, a series of eight major and minor hurricanes wreaked havoc all along the U.S. Gulf Coast, resulting in scores of counties being declared Major Disaster Area (MDA) counties. Hurricane Katrina, which bombarded the region in September of 2005, was among the most devastating of these. While not inflicting direct damage on facilities critical to the Space Shuttle Program (SSP) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Katrina caused considerable adverse effects as it shut down schools and destroyed homes, roads, water treatment plants and other essential components of the region’s infrastructure.

The Space Shuttle Program’s mission is to fly up to four human space flight missions each year between now and September 2010, referred to as the SSP “fly-out” date. Each of these missions is estimated to require intensive months of planning and subsequent implementation effort by highly skilled teams of engineers and related technical and support staff in two key facilities that lay in Hurricane Katrina’s path:

  • The Stennis Flight Center in Bay City (MS), which tests the rocket engines for the shuttles. Stennis, the only facility in the country that conducts tests on the shuttle’s external rocket engines, is operated by Pratt and Whitney/Rocketdyne.
  • The Michoud Assembly Facility just east of New Orleans (LA), which builds the external fuel tanks for the space shuttles. Michoud, the sole facility in the country making and assembling the shuttle’s external fuel tanks, is operated jointly by Lockheed Martin.

Together, these vital SSP facilities employ around 2,000 workers. Many of these employees are highly educated engineers and technical staff with skills that will be costly to replace, both in terms of the time it would take to recruit, screen, hire and train them and the lost productivity for the Space Shuttle Program. Of these employees, more than 1,500 are employed by Lockheed Martin to work n the external tank assembly and related operations and almost 400 work at Stennis Flight Center on rocket engine testing.

It is also important to note that both of these facilities are also facing serious internal workforce challenges as a result of ongoing demographic changes, primarily their aging workforce. According to officials at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, a substantial share of the engineers and technical/support staff at these two facilities are fast approaching retirement age and, given the added “push” from Katrina and its aftermath, may leave their jobs at some point in the near future.

Both of these forces — Katrina and its associated effects on the region’s infrastructure, plus the aging of its workforce — have the potential to adversely impact the ability of the Space Shuttle Program to accomplish its mission, namely flying up to four human space flight missions each year between now and mission “fly-out” in 2010. This proposal will estimate these potential adverse impacts and then develop recommended strategies for addressing them.

Approach

The researchers propose to assess the economic and workforce impact on the Space Shuttle Program’s capacity to achieve its mission of flying human space flight missions between now and September 2010 and to develop a series of recommended strategies for countering any adverse impacts that emerge based on this research.

Major Research Components. The major components of the proposed research are:

  • Environmental Scan. We will begin the research with a preliminary scan of the environment affecting these facilities. The scan will rely on basic document and data gathering, as well as initial meetings and discussions with key personnel to gain an understanding of the ‘lay of the land’ in this area. The research team will also examine regional business relationships SSP facilities have with suppliers, vendors, or related product/services companies for a deeper understanding of how the NASA centers are embedded in their local economies.
  • Focus Groups. Both to learn about the issues that are likely to affect SSP’s direct and indirect workforce in these facilities—including their decisions to remain in or leave their jobs—and to help us in developing a more comprehensive online survey, we will conduct a number of focus groups in each affected facility/area with workers and adult members of their families.
  • Online Workforce Survey. Based on the information gleaned from the focus groups and the environmental scan, we will develop and conduct an online surey of the SSP workforce, direct and indirect, in these facilities to gauge the importance of Katrina, demographic and other factors to their decisions to remain working with the SSP program over the next four years.
  • Field Interviews. We will conduct a series of in-depth interviews with SSP directors, HR managers and other senior staff and with government and civic leaders who are playing major roles in the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast area in Katrina’s aftermath.
  • Scenario Modeling. Building upon work that both the Ray Marshall Center and IC 2 Institute have done examining critical skills and economic development strategies in key industry sectors in Austin and other areas (including Canada), we will model scenarios for economic and workforce impacts for the area and SSP facilities given what emerge as likely parameters for the near future, i.e., the critical 2006-2010 timeframe.
  • Recommended Strategy Development. Finally, we will also conduct a structured process to develop recommended strategies for addressing any projected adverse economic and workforce impacts.

Reports Available:

Economic and Workforce Impacts of Hurricane Katrina, Demographic and Related Changes on NASA’s Space Shuttle Program: Findings and Recommendations (Summary Report) (March 2007). Christopher T. King, J. Bruce Kellison, Tara Smith, Eliza Evans, MaryAnn Anderson, Ara Merjanian, Bryan Hadley and Andrew Stackhouse. Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources, The University of Texas at Austin, and IC² Institute, The University of Texas at Austin. 52pp.

Economic and Workforce Impacts of Hurricane Katrina, Demographic and Related Changes on NASA’s Space Shuttle Program: Findings and Recommendations (Final Report) (March 2007). Christopher T. King, J. Bruce Kellison, Tara Smith, Eliza Evans, MaryAnn Anderson, Ara Merjanian, Bryan Hadley and Andrew Stackhouse. Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources, The University of Texas at Austin, and IC² Institute, The University of Texas at Austin. 214pp.

 
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