Sen Ben Cardin, D-Md., today asked leadership of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a “game plan” on workforce stabilization and recruiting after discussing with agency officials the steady reduction of headcount at NRC as the agency’s budget has declined in recent years.

At a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Cardin said NRC’s employee headcount had fallen by 23 percent since FY2010, and agency officials testified that efforts to fill the hiring pipeline with younger people have not borne much fruit.

Kristine Svinicki, chairman of the NRC, said the agency has a “very senior workforce,” with barely two percent of the workforce under the age of 30. “It is a growing concern, the front end of the pipeline,” she said.
NRC Commissioner Jeff Baran said the agency needs to focus on “stabilizing” its workforce, and that it was “harder to retain folks” because NRC is a smaller Federal agency and is unable to offer a larger number of promotion opportunities.

He said NRC staff was “working very hard” on the workforce problem, but added, “as long as our budget keeps declining, it will be very difficult.”

Sen. Cardin said he worried that “attacks” on the Federal government workforce in the form of budget and benefits reductions at some agencies were contributing to the workforce problem at NRC and crimping its ability to attract younger workers.

“We have to pay a little bit of attention to this,” he declared. “We understand size is one thing,” but not having the brightest minds in the field of nuclear safety “is a challenge for us,” the senator said.
Chairman Svinicki said NRC is making a lot of IT investments “to give people the tools to do things more efficiently,” and added, “we have a lot of mid-career employees who are bringing a lot of energy” to the agency.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.