RICHLAND — Layoffs are expected to be announced late this month at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, but lab director Mike Kluse hopes fewer than 100 jobs will be cut, he said Monday.
The Department of Energy this weekend released a Draft Fiscal Year 2012 Workforce Restructuring Plan for PNNL, which is required when the DOE national lab in Richland may reduce staff by more than 100 workers in a rolling calendar year.
Each year, the lab cuts some positions because programs and projects are completed or funding for them ends. But this year, the lab expects to cut more positions than usual because of modestly decreased federal funding for fiscal 2012.
"Overall at the laboratory, it's still very, very positive," Kluse said. "Any year, there are ups and downs in the budget."
The federal budget was signed into law in late December for the year that began Oct. 1, and since then PNNL officials have been working to determine how plans to spend money by a wide variety of federal agencies and programs could affect PNNL programs.
There could be less money for some national security and environmental research programs and less money for the acquisition teams that support them, Kluse said.
National security work, including research paid for by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Nuclear Security Agency, accounts for about half of the lab's work. As national priorities change for their programs, that affects the research that PNNL is given money to do.
Environmental research accounts for a much smaller percentage of the budget at about$60 million annually.
In the past 12 months, PNNL laid off 65 to70 staff, including 23 in September. Of those,35 took voluntary layoff offers.
The 23 layoffs in September coupled with the layoffs expected to be announced later this month likely would bring the national lab to the 100 staff reductions in a rolling 12 months that triggers the creation of a restructuring plan.
The PNNL 2012 draft restructuring plan outlines ways to manage cutbacks through steps such as voluntary layoffs and retraining staff to take other jobs available at the national lab.
Some workers who lose their jobs would be given preference in rehiring, and state employment services would be available through WorkSource Columbia Basin.
PNNL now has 4,780 workers after seeing growth in most recent years. The lab had 4,008 employees in late 2007.
But even in years when the workforce grew at PNNL, the lab has had between 20 and 50 involuntary layoffs because it could not always find appropriate programs and projects to transfer people to as their work concluded or ran out of funding, said Greg Koller, PNNL spokesman.
PNNL has known for several months that fiscal years 2012 and 2013 could have challenging budgets. But because of the diversity of the research PNNL conducts, it is in a better position to weather federal budget cuts than most, according to PNNL.
About 93 percent of PNNL's typical $1.1 billion budget comes from federal agencies.
The draft workforce restructuring plan is posted at pnso.oro.doe.gov. Comments may be sent throughMonday to WFR2012@pnso.science.doe.gov.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org