A shrunken budget caused a national nuclear safety lab to announce a plan to reduce its staff by up to 800 employees, officials announced Wednesday. 

The Los Alamos National Laboratory will offer voluntary buyouts to up to 800 employees as part of $300 million in cutbacks in the current budget.

We are taking these actions now in an attempt to reduce the risks of involuntary layoffs, Charlie McMillan, lab director, said in a statement.

The proposed voluntary workforce reduction still requires approval from the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration.

Officials gave three reasons for the voluntary staff reduction: the fiscal 2012 budget will be $2.2 billion, which is $300 million less than fiscal 2011; officials project future budgets to be flatlined or even decreased and attrition decreased in the past few years.

The plan we're submitting will position the lab to continue executing our missions today and in the future, McMillan said.

The plan will not cut programs that bring students into the labs and some higher-skilled applicants may be rejected to maintain a sufficient level of skill across the lab.

In 2008, lab administrators faced similar budget cuts and found savings across the lab to avoid voluntary buyouts. Lab administrators formed a team of managers in late 2011 to explore cost-saving options.

I'm very hopeful we can achieve the savings we need without an involuntary workforce reduction. We were successful when we took similar action in 2008, McMillan said. I am fully aware of the economic footprint this lab has in Northern New Mexico, and we're taking every possible step to minimize the impacts.

The lab has a mandate to enhance national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns, according to a news release.