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JPL Workforce Reductions

February 07, 2024

To: The Caltech Community
From:  Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and Professor of Physics

Earlier today, JPL leadership took an exceedingly difficult workforce action. Approximately 530 colleagues at JPL, representing eight percent of the workforce, received layoff notifications and approximately 40 contractors were released. Without an FY24 appropriation or clarity on the Mars Sample Return (MSR) budget allocation, NASA directed JPL to adjust its current year operations to align with a $300 million MSR budget, which is over a 60 percent reduction to the MSR FY23 mission budget of $822 million.

Caltech, across campus and JPL, is a close-knit, connected community. This is a difficult moment for all of us, and we are assisting affected employees as much as possible in their transitions.  Caltech continues to make the case in Washington, DC with NASA, Congress, and the Executive Branch about the need for investment in planetary exploration, astrophysics, and earth science for the future of our nation and the world. The California delegation in Congress has been very supportive and we are grateful for their advocacy.

JPL is a national treasure. For more than 87 years, JPL has led the robotic exploration of our solar system; deepened understanding of life, the universe, and humanity's place within it; traced and illuminated the changes in earth's climate; furthered our country's national security; and inspired generations of scientists and engineers to pursue challenges of enormous scale.

JPL is a national treasure because of the dedicated and supremely talented employees who work there. It is what makes these layoffs so painful. At the same time, we remain optimistic about JPL's future, knowing the fearlessness and creativity of the colleagues who remain. Together, we will continue to push the boundaries of scientific discovery and technological innovation.