KSC's Cabana sees no huge programs

With a dramatically smaller work force, Kennedy Space Center in 2012 will begin preparing for life after the shuttle under the president's proposed $18.7 billion NASA budget.
Center Director Bob Cabana said Monday he expects a combined contractor and civil service work force of about 8,500 next year, down from about 13,000 now and 15,000 two years ago.
After three more shuttle missions planned this year, Cabana said KSC would begin to lay the groundwork for a future that should be less dependent on a single program like the shuttle or Apollo.
"Are we going to build up to some huge program again?" he said. "I don't see that happening. I think our challenge is to provide diversity in the work that comes here to the Kennedy Space Center."
While the shuttle stops flying this year, NASA still plans to spend $665 million for shuttle-related operations in 2012.
The bulk of that, $548 million, would support pension payments for former employees of lead shuttle contractor United Space Alliance.
Another $117 million funds a process called "transition and retirement," which will deliver shuttle orbiters to museums and ready facilities for use by new programs, if needed.
When that work is done, the center's contractor work force, which is absorbing all the layoffs, could drop by another 1,000.
Meanwhile, the center in 2012 would begin a long-term effort to modernize its launch infrastructure for new rockets and spacecraft, but with much less money than hoped.
A program to transform KSC into a "21st Century launch complex" would spend $128 million in 2012 and about $470 million over five years. That's down from the $500 million in 2012 and $1.9 billion overall that President Barack Obama recommended last year.