ULA Lays off 12 Executives

ULA_logoLooks like heads are beginning to roll at ULA under new CEO Tory Bruno:

United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and Boeing Co (BA.N), on Friday said it was cutting its executive ranks by 30 percent in December through what it called voluntary departures by 12 executives.

Tory Bruno, chief executive of the venture, told Reuters in an emailed statement the layoffs were part of ULA’s ongoing efforts to adapt to what he called “an increasingly competitive business environment” and redesign its leadership team.

ULA, formed by the two largest U.S. weapons makers in 2006, has long been the sole company able to launch U.S. military and intelligence satellites into orbit, but the Air Force expects to certify a new rival, privately-held Space Exploration Technologies, to compete for some of those launches next month.

The company is also under pressure from a new law that limits its use of the Russian RD-180 rocket engines that power its Atlas 5 launch vehicles after 2019. Congress passed the law after Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine last year.

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  • Chief Galen Tyrol

    Is “lay off” synonymous with “voluntary departure”? Also, it’s weird to hear something mildly critical about ULA from Loren “the subject of this article contributes to my think tank” Thompson.

  • therealdmt

    ‘…Loren “the subject of this article contributes to my think tank” Thompson’

  • Paul_Scutts

    Is this the equivalent of the army’s way of calling for volunteers? You, you and you.

  • windbourne

    Oh, I did not hear about these already.
    Maybe Bruno is for real. ULA, like Boeing and L-Mart, is HORRIBLY top heavy.
    It needs a real cleaning. If Bruno keeps the engineers, while gutting the top/middle management, I think that ULA will really stand a decent chance of coming back.

  • windbourne

    These guys are getting 9 months to find new jobs in the company or outside of it. That is in addition, to their likely bonus package that they will be getting.
    Is this a layoff? Not in the common sense.

  • savuporo

    12 execs, lets see … thats about 20% of total workforce payroll right there 😉

  • Vladislaw

    I wonder how many were ex airforce?

  • Steve Ksiazek

    Guys at that level always get a “package”, Most of the savings will probably come from taking these guys out of the decision making process rather than their salary and benefits alone.

  • Jeff Smith

    The slimming down (or just not hiring) of engineers will come later. They are going to go from 3 launch vehicle families (Delta II, IV and Atlas V) to 1 (Vulcan). That means they are going from 3 different main engines, 3 different upper stages and 3 different cores to… 1. Many different solids, many different fluids to deal with (LOX/H2/Kerosene/hydrazine/MMH/NTO) each one needs its own expert(s).

    Remember, the reason rockets cost so much is THE PEOPLE. All those engineers, inspectors, testers, drafters, and all the support staff to make it all work. The way ULA is going to save money (and hence compete) with Vulcan is to have less people.

    Solids for Delta AND Atlas? Now just Vulcan, fire half.
    Experts for Centaur AND DCSS? Now just Centaur, fire half.
    Experts for Kerosene, LOX, H2, hydrazine, MMH, NTO? Now just LOX, H2, CH4… fire half.
    Technicians for Delta II cores, CCBs, CBCs? Now just Vulcan (CBC), fire 2/3s.

    ULA will be able to cut their workforce by a huge number after the switch.

  • windbourne

    You are likely right, however, I am hoping that you are wrong.

  • Jeff Smith

    Hopefully, when it does happen, the people who have been working for ULA decide to start or join new space ventures. Thus they’ll be able to bring years of experience to new companies that want to invent new things and create new products and services. If they can create new value, then everybody wins.

  • Steve Ksiazek

    Manufacturing in Decatur probably won’t change much, since they are still building the same number of cores and upper stages.
    Their real savings come from sending much less money to Rocketdyne for each launch. I can’t blame those engineers however. That is one group that has been passed around like a bad penny between different corporate bosses for quite a while.

  • Jeff Smith

    The manufacturing will be at the same rate, but with a lot less people. The number of fixtures will be cut to a third, the number of manufacturing engineers that write planning will be a third, the number of people certified to do an operation and the inspectors to inspect it will be a third. The configuration management people will be a third (drawings, specs, planning, build books, etc.). The number of specialty operations will be a third (special welds, brazes, autoclave operations, riveting, etc.). The number of different tools for the tool shop to stock, and for metrology to calibrate will be a third. AND, the number of cores WILL be less per Tory because 1 Vulcan core will do the job of 3 for a Delta IV Heavy.

    Even if the produce EXACTLY the same number of cores, the amount of support personnel to maintain 3 production lines will be cut to a third of the old number. They won’t be getting rid of mid wage techs that build the rockets, they’ll be getting rid of low range support and high wage engineers. The change will hurt, both the people and Decatur in general. Let’s hope it ensures the long term survival of the company.