Los Alamos Lab plans to offer buyouts to up to 800

Wednesday - 2/22/2012, 1:54pm EST

This story was updated at 11 a.m. Feb. 27, 2012, to clarify that only contract employees would be affected.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico wants to cut up to 800 positions by this spring through voluntary separations, according to a release.

The lab has submitted a plan to the National Nuclear Security Administration and is waiting for approval to offer the buyouts. These buyouts would affect contract employees only.

The buyouts would be offered to the 7,580 full-time, permanent employees, said lab spokesperson Fred deSousa in a phone interview with Federal News Radio. The lab will exclude certain job functions "based on mission needs," deSousa added.

Lab Director Charlie McMillan said decreased attrition and flat or lower future budgets have required the lab to turn to workforce reductions of between 400 and 800 employees. LANL's fiscal 2012 budget is more than $300 million lower than 2011 — $2.2 billion versus $2.55 billion, according to the release.

"With a smaller workforce possessing the essential skills, we will be better positioned to deliver on current and future national security commitments. Allowing employees to apply for voluntary separation is a prudent step," McMillan said in the release.

According to its website, the lab is a national security science lab with a mission to develop technology that reduces nuclear threats and solves other national security challenges.

The release said the lab's student programs will not be cut but capped at 2011 levels.

"A team of senior managers, formed in late 2011, will continue other aggressive cost-curbing measures," according to the release.

The last time LANL offered buyouts was in 2008, with 431 people voluntarily separating. With the workforce reduction, the lab was able to avoid involuntary layoffs in 2008, deSousa said.

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