Md.-based agency may cut 120 jobs

April 23, 2004|By Michael Stroh | Michael Stroh,SUN STAFF

Grappling with a significant budget shortfall this fiscal year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg said yesterday that it may have to lay off as many as 120 researchers by fall.

The agency, which employs 2,800 people at its main Montgomery County campus and 400 more at a Boulder, Colo., satellite laboratory, has begun offering staffers early retirement and a limited number of buyouts. Officials said they are also attempting to work with other agencies to cut costs.

But NIST spokesman Michael E. Newman said that if these measures are unsuccessful, the agency may be forced to lay off as many as 120 scientists, engineers and support staff.

Affected employees are scheduled to be notified in the middle of next month, although some have received unofficial pink slips from supervisors. Staff reductions, Newman said, would be completed by Sept. 30.

Newman said the NIST is not the only federal agency grappling with budget problems, and that agency officials are making efforts to minimize job cuts. Still, he said, "There's a possibility we could lose some very talented people."

In a written statement, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland said yesterday that she is "very concerned" about the potential loss of researchers at the agency, noting its role in setting standards for lifesaving equipment and technology used by first responders.

Mikulski said she is making an effort to ensure that the agency, part of the Department of Commerce, gets the funds it needs.

Sun staff writer Dennis O'Brien contributed to this article.

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