PNNL to cut 50 to 75 positions

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldJuly 17, 2013 

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory must cut 50 to 75 positions by Oct. 1, the start of the next fiscal year, lab director Mike Kluse told employees Wednesday.

The Department of Energy national lab in Richland will make as many of the cuts as possible through natural attrition -- such as retirements -- and voluntary layoffs.

The lab projects an anticipated shortfall of $16 million in overhead funding for fiscal 2014, based on discussions in the U.S. House and Senate.

In addition, much of the lab's annual budget of more than $1 billion comes from multiple funding sources for individual research programs, and it will see reductions in that money as well.

"Given the anticipated federal funding levels projected for FY14, we cannot sustain our current staffing levels," Kluse said in a memo to staff.

The reductions will not be across the board, Kluse said. "They are targeted reductions based on business needs and available funding."

The specific areas designated for reduction will be identified during the next few weeks. Employees will be allowed to apply soon for voluntary layoffs that will be carefully targeted, and PNNL expects to know which applications are approved in four to six weeks.

Those approved will receive the lab's standard severance package of one week of pay for each year of service up to a maximum of 20 weeks pay.

In a normal year, the lab cuts 25 to 50 jobs as part of the normal business cycle as demand for different types of research increases and decreases.

PNNL now employs about 4,400 workers, with about 4,000 of those based in Richland.

In fiscal 2012, it cut 428 positions because of federal budget issues. Almost half of the cuts were part of a formal work force restructuring program that resulted in 112 voluntary and 98 involuntary layoffs. Other cuts came through attrition and moving some work to Hanford contractor Mission Support Alliance, as the result of a DOE decision.

PNNL has used three methods to manage its budget amid uncertainty in the current fiscal year, Kluse said in the memo -- It has worked to cut costs, raise rates and grow business.

The lab has been able to weather budget reductions better than some of the other national labs because of the diverse types of research it does, said PNNL spokesman Greg Koller.

Based on the fiscal 2014 budget information PNNL has now, the positions cut in the next few months should see the lab through September 2014, Kluse told the Herald.

He remains bullish on PNNL.

"We are well positioned relative to the national challenges we address and the challenges that endure," he said. "The investments made in equipment and staff position us well for the future."

PNNL does research in energy, environment, discovery science and national security -- some of the nation's most critical areas where advancements are needed, he said.

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