The long-awaited base realignment and closure recommendations came as a shock to hundreds of Arsenal workers employed in accounting, human resources and installation management agencies, as well as at the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM.
Many in those agencies thought their jobs were safe, worrying instead about their manufacturing colleagues. It turned out they need not have fretted for their co-workers.
“People were pretty much of a mind-set that the manufacturing would be shut down,” said Tom Esparza, president of American Federation of Government Employees, Local 15. “We didn’t even talk about DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Service) being realigned. That was a shock to me.” He might well have been talking about all of the white-collar jobs.
The Pentagon says it needs to revamp the country’s base structure to support a military that must change to meet new threats. It estimates the changes will save the country nearly $49 billion over the next 20 years.
“It kind of hurts in the heart, but I understand what the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure Commission) means to our military and our nation,” Maj. Gen. Jerome Johnson, the highest-ranking officer on the base, told reporters Friday.
Military and local leaders emphasized that the list is not the final word. Before the revamp is enacted, the nine-member BRAC Commission will have nearly four months to analyze the recommendations and make its own report to President Bush. Congress and the president ultimately must approve the changes. That could happen by November.
The safety valve the commission
provides is what local economic and political leaders are banking on.
They see Rumsfeld’s proposal as bitter fruit, but not the poison they would have had to swallow if the Pentagon had locked the doors on the entire 6,400-employee installation. And they pledged to fight to win back the jobs.
“It looks like all of you are ready for a battle,” U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., told political and community leaders during a news conference at The Mark of the Quad-Cities in Moline. “So are we.”
The recommendations create the potential for a surprising addition to the island: the headquarters of the 1st U.S. Army, now based at Fort Gillem, Ga. It is being closed. The command, headed by a three-star general, would be the highest-ranking one on the island. The Defense Department said it is locating the command here because of the Arsenal’s central location.
The change, if ratified, would mean the addition of 157 military jobs and 120 civilian jobs, which would offset losses in some other areas. The command also provides a platform for possibly adding future responsibilities related to the command, military experts say.
Most of the realignments, however, meant job losses.
In addition to direct losses, the Defense Department also estimated the impact arising from the transfer of 1,263 jobs off Arsenal Island would result in another 1,346 jobs lost in the community. That would bring the total lost to 2,609 jobs between 2006 and 2011, according to the estimate from the Pentagon, which has six years to make the changes.
Local officials could not assess whether the Arsenal losses would have the impact the Defense Department predicts. They acknowledge there would be some spinoff effect, but say it would have been greater had the losses come on the manufacturing side.
Political and economic development leaders also sought to put the job losses in the best light, even as they vowed to battle for them. They pointed out that 80 percent of the jobs now on the island will be preserved even if they are not successful at reversing Friday’s events.
“It’s kind of like losing your hand as opposed to losing your whole arm. But it’s hard to be grateful for losing your hand,” Rock Island Mayor Mark Schwiebert said.
Not everyone thought the public would see it as a glass 80 percent full, though. “I think people are going to look at it as if we’re getting the (expletive) kicked out of us again,” said former Illinois Sen. Denny Jacobs, a Democrat from East Moline.
The Arsenal white-collar job losses include:
n The transfer of many, if not all, functions of TACOM-Rock Island, would send 740 jobs, to Ohio and Detroit, according to the Pentagon, which estimates that move and eight other related realignments across the country would save nearly $1.9 billion over 20 years.
n The transfer of the Civilian Human Resource Agency, with its 251 jobs, to Fort Riley, Kan., and the Aberdeen (Md.) Proving Grounds.
n The transfer of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, or DFAS, jobs to Denver, Indianapolis and Columbus. The Defense Department says the DFAS unit in Rock Island has 235 jobs.
n The transfer of the Installation Management Agency-Northwest Region to Fort Sam Houston, Texas. That will amount to the loss of 133 jobs, according to the Pentagon.
The loss of jobs could even be worse than what the Pentagon projected, though. Arsenal officials say 1,119 work for TACOM-Rock Island while 301 work for DFAS on the island, both figures that are higher than the Pentagon’s numbers, which date to 2003. Jobs have been added here since then.
If all those functions are transferred, that would bring the total jobs lost to 1,708. Arsenal and economic development officials still are analyzing the recommendation, though, to determine the precise number.
There were blue-collar losses, too.
The Pentagon put the number at 181 depot maintenance jobs lost to Alabama and Pennsylvania. However, officials from the factory say they need further clarification to understand the recommendation and what it might mean as far as job losses. They do not believe it would be more than 181. It could be less.
Overall, the decision to save the manufacturing plant, where the building of armor for vehicles in Iraq has added jobs and prestige, was greeted with relief. And it represented a big victory for local officials who have fought for it.
“It’s a big weight off,” said Joe Findley, vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2119.
The manufacturing center, considered the heart of the Arsenal, has long been a target.
“I don’t know if you ever declare victory,” Quad-City Development Group President Thom Hart said. But, he added, “We won this round.”
Local officials believe work on Iraq projects played a key role in keeping the factory open. It also is likely the requirement that the Pentagon give added weight to its “surge” capacity, or ability to meet additional needs during times of emergency, played a role in helping manufacturing facilities.
Still, there are other criteria local officials believe may have been violated, and that will play into their plan to attack the recommendations they do not like. For example, one of the agencies on the island ranked tops in the country among its nationwide peers, they said. They also questioned whether the Arsenal’s security advantages — located as it is on an island — were given enough weight.
The development group has deployed a group of experts, many of them retired Arsenal employees, to analyze the recommendations. They are expected to help form a strategy to combat the recommendations.
It will be an uphill battle, though.
The base closing law requires that seven of nine of the commissioners vote in favor of overturning a Pentagon recommendation. And they must find the Defense Department significantly deviated from its criteria.
The commission has scheduled nearly a week of hearings beginning Monday. It then will hold regional hearings and visit bases. Local officials fully expect it to visit the Arsenal.
By Sept. 8, the commission must forward its list to President Bush, who can accept or reject it. If he accepts it, Congress has 45 legislative days to act. Both the president and Congress must accept or reject the commission’s list in total.
They cannot amend it.
BRAC: Efforts continue to attract tenants to Arsenal
By Jennifer DeWitt
As they wage battle over a plan to scatter hundreds of Rock Island Arsenal jobs across the country, Quad-City economic development representatives' efforts also are focused on attracting private industry to the island.
“The first thing we’re going to try to do is to convince the BRAC commission to leave those folks here, but we’re going to take an offensive approach to move additional people here,” said Tim Frye, the marketing manager of the Rock Island Arsenal Development Group, or RIADG.
RIADG was created two years ago as an arm of the Quad-City Development Group to market and lease some of the Arsenal’s excess space to private companies as part of the Arsenal Support Program Initiative. Though three arsenals have been authorized to lease space through the pilot program, only Rock Island and the arsenal in Watervliet, N.Y., are doing so.
“It’s been successful,” Thom Hart, the president of the Quad-City Development Group, said Saturday.
He expects efforts to continue full force even with attention now also on saving the hundreds of Arsenal jobs recommended to be moved as part of the report Friday to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRAC.
“Economic development is always both job retention and trying to attract new jobs,” he said, adding that most new jobs are created by existing businesses.
Currently the Arsenal has about 750,000 square feet of available space — ranging from office space, to warehousing and manufacturing space — that could be leased to either military tenants or private industry, Frye said.
To date, RIADG has recruited 14 private company tenants — most of whom do business with the Arsenal’s military tenants — to lease space on the island. Occupying a total of 26,000 square feet, most of the tenants employ just a few people each, he said.
Among the largest is Grainger, a 30-year-old distributor of facilities maintenance supplies, which opened a branch there in November.
“We think, comfortably, we could bring 2,000 additional people on the island,” Frye said.
The available space includes about 6,500 square feet of office space that was recently remodeled.
Should the three regional commands and hundreds of arsenal jobs go away, as proposed, he said there would be much more room for lease. In addition to working to bring in other military commands, he said “We’d start scrambling to identify private tenants to move on the island.”
In fact, RIADG’s latest success — a new tenant involved in document conversion — is just a few weeks from being announced.
Hart said the island makes sense for tenants whose data or operations require the security that the Arsenal provides.
“It’s not a place where you want people who want high visibility and easy access,” he said.
But while leasing to private industry is a positive alternative to empty space, Frye said the tenants’ jobs are not a replacement for the Arsenal jobs.
“These jobs we’re losing, particularly the regional offices, are very high-paying jobs,” he said. “The average wage is $52,000. These jobs bring that average up (to that).”
Base closings would cost Western Pa. hundreds of jobs
Hundreds of military and civilian jobs in Western Pennsylvania would be lost under a plan to close military bases announced Friday by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. Rumsfeld's recommendations to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission delivered to congressional offices Friday morning are aimed at trimming between 5 percent and 11 percent of excess military infrastructure.
The 911th United States Air Force Reserve Airlift Wing, located near Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon, and the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility in Oakdale are both on the list.
If the Kelly center is closed, 174 military jobs and 138 civilian jobs would be eliminated; if the Air Reserve station is closed, 44 military jobs and 278 civilian jobs would be lost.
The base closing commission is also recommending realignment of the Army's 99th Regional Readiness Command in Moon. Although it would not be closed, the Reserve command would lose 119 military and 101 civilian jobs.
Mr. Rumsfeld's recommendation means the loss of 1,435 military jobs and 429 civilian jobs throughout Pennsylvania, prompting Gov. Ed Rendell to say he would fight the plan.
"Pennsylvania's long and proud tradition of dedication at our depots and installations during both peace and wartime is unmatched across the nation," Mr. Rendell said. "Today we join with statewide leaders to continue our fight on behalf of the men and women working at our military installations who help support our special forces in Iraq and in Afghanistan."
The closings will not be official until the nine-member BRAC panel makes its recommendations to President Bush by Sept. 8. Mr. Bush would then forward his list to Congress, which votes on it but cannot make additions or subtractions.
With a little more than 11,000 employees, Western Pennsylvania's military presence isn't huge. But, it does help to draw in more than $200 million annually to the state and local economies through jobs and government contracts.
It has been estimated that the economic impact of the 911th Airlift Wing is over $94 million annually. The 911th Airlift Wing, which employs 1,436, has a total payroll of $12 million and total base expenditure of $17 million, according to a resolution of Moon Township that recognizes the value and importance of the military bases in the region.
Military installations that were not on list and will remain in the Pittsburgh area include: the 99th Regional Readiness Command; the 171st Air Refueling Wing, Pennsylvania Air National Guard; and the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Units in North Versailles. There are also three ROTC units associated with local universities. Parts of the 99th, the 171st and the 911th are already located near the airport in Moon Township.
Pennsylvania already has lost 16,000 jobs and $800 million in payroll through four previous rounds of base closings in 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995.
American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 600,000 federal employees, asked the Defense Department to consider a two-year delay in the BRAC process, saying it would "disrupt the work of the thousands of civilian workers committed to supporting the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as current efforts to secure the homeland."
AFGE president John Gage said, "our troops are already committed to the war in Iraq, and we're still trying to defend ourselves against future terrorist attacks here at home. This is not the time to scale back and close military installations that provide valuable services and equipment that help keep us safe."
During the last round of closures in 1995, both the 911th and the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility, which was then the headquarters of the 99th, were on the list. Of 132 on the closure list, 14 were saved, including the two local ones. They were taken off the list after it was determined that the data used in prioritizing the bases for closure was faulty. Others, including eastern Pennsylvania's Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster, Pennsylvania, which closed in 1996, were not so lucky.
Over the past decade, the Department of Defense has been moving toward consolidation. Charles Holsworth, an attorney and member of the Pennsylvania Base Development Committee, a group appointed by the governor to ensure Pennsylvania loses no more military bases and jobs as a result of military downsizing, pointed to two areas, Willow Grove, Pa. and Dallas, Texas, as locations that have seen consolidation occur. Willow Grove was redesignated a Joint Reserve Base in 1994. Now, the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Pennsylvania National Guard all have a presence there.
In an effort to help ensure that installations in Pennsylvania aren't closed, the state sponsored a study, done by the Dupuy Institute, a Virginia think tank, that was designed to look at the military value, mission and impact of retaining the region's military facilities.
The study recommended that a Regional Joint Readiness Center should be formed at the Pittsburgh International Airport, which would consolidate rather than close a number of local military installations. The Department of Defense has placed an emphasis on the need for military installations that can support joint military operations.
"It (the study) is recommending that consolidation happen," Mr. Holsworth said. "BRAC has the power to do that. We wanted to have that solution available in case one is on the list (of closures)."
Consolidating the region's military installations at the airport would be an economic boost to the airport area because it would generate new jobs. Mr. Holsworth said there is room to grow there, since the necessary infrastructure is already in place.
Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said during a press conference last month that the region, particularly the airport-area corridor with roughly 10,000 acres of undeveloped land around it, has the capacity for a military expansion. A larger military presence there would be key in developing the land near Pittsburgh International.
For the Department of Defense, the airport is a good selection for consolidation, Mr. Holsworth added, because the county has already offered it land for such a facility and there is available ramp space for the air force to expand its presence. There has also been land set aside expansion of the three current bases, if necessary.
"The cost saving to the Department of Defense and taxpayer would be enormous because there could be duplicate ," he said of a local base consolidation. "... (Plus), it is easier to secure one base than a bunch of little ones."
BRAC: Arsenal's white-collar jobs hit hardest
By Ed Tibbetts, Jennifer DeWitt and Tory Brecht
The Rock Island Arsenal factory has long been considered the most at-risk from a base closing process, but U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s recommendations today would hit the white-collar commands based on the island harder, according to information provided by the Quad-City Development Group and area congressional offices.
Three regional agencies would be shipped off the island if Rumsfeld’s recommendations hold up, with the largest losses at the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command.
There, 740 jobs would be lost, according to the development group. They would be transferred to Columbus, Ohio, and Warren, Mich., where the command is headquartered.
In addition, the development group says, the Installation Management Agency-Northwest Region and the human resources agency on the island and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service would leave the island. The recommendations still must withstand the scrutiny of the nine-member Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which will begin holding hearings on the recommendations next week.
The development group says the loss of the human resource agency will mean the loss of 251 jobs. Those will go to Fort Riley, Kan., and Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md.; the loss of the accounting service would mean the loss of 235 jobs, which would go to Denver, Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio; and the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center would see a loss of just 181 jobs. Those positions would go to Anniston, Ala., and New Jersey.
The Arsenal would gain the headquarters of the First U.S. Army, currently based at Fort Gillem, Georgia, according to area congressional offices. The command is a three-star billet, which would make it the highest ranking command to be based on the island. The transfer of jobs from Georgia will result in a gain of 157 Army jobs and 120 civilian jobs.
In total, Arsenal Island would lose 1,263 jobs, according to the Pentagon tally.
Currently, there are 6,400 civilian and contract employees on the island.
“It’s disappointing to see the job loss,” development group president Thom Hart said today. But he added that 80 percent of the jobs are still remaining on the island. “It still doesn’t make a lot of sense because TACOM has 1,100 (employees on Arsenal Island), so what part is it?” Hart questioned today.
“People were pretty much of a mindset that the manufacturing would be shut down but they looked to be pretty unscathed and that’s good. But we didn’t even talk about DFAS being realigned. That was a shock to me,” said Tom Esparza, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 15, which represents white-collar workers.
Congressional officials were still sorting out the recommendations, which were unveiled at a news conference at the Pentagon. Congressional, Arsenal and economic development officials are holding news conferences later today to react to the news.
The Base Realignment and Closure Commission will spend the summer analyzing the list. It must make its own recommendations to President Bush by Sept. 8. He can accept it or reject it. If he accepts it, Congress has 45 legislative days to accept or reject the list. There can be no amendments. The commission’s list must be accepted or rejected in whole.
Historically, only 15 percent of the secretary’s recommendations have been altered, but commission officials have said they will not act as a rubber stamp for the Pentagon recommendations.
Even if the recommendations are upheld, it would likely take months, if not years, to enact the changes.
Base Closing and Realignment Commission members are:
Former Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi, chairman
Former U.S. Rep. James Bilbray of Nevada
Philip Coyle of California, a former assistant secretary of defense
Retired Adm. Harold Gehman Jr. of Virginia
Former U.S. Rep. James Hansen of Utah
Retired Gen. James Hill of Florida, whose last assignment was commanding the U.S. Southern Command.
Retired Air Force Gen. Lloyd “Fig” Newton, who served in uniform for 34 years, culminating as commander of Air education and Training Command
Samuel Skinner of Illinois, who was chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush
Retired Brigadier Gen. Sue Ellen Turner of Texas, an Air Force veteran
E-mail message spurs concern over OMB competitive sourcing tactics
By Amelia Gruber
An e-mail circulated to Forest Service managers last week has triggered concern that the White House is pushing the agency to prematurely open jobs to private sector competition.
The Office of Management and Budget threatened to downgrade the Agriculture Department from a yellow to a red - the lowest rating - on the competitive sourcing section of the Bush administration's quarterly management score card, unless the Forest Service allows contractors to bid on at least 100 jobs by the close of the fiscal year, according to the May 3 message, sent from headquarters to update field managers on the Forest Service's competitive sourcing program.
"As you know, OMB has never been satisfied with the lack of competitions in the Forest Service and this has been communicated to the new secretary of Agriculture," the e-mail said. Due to a potential "rating change," the memo said, the Agriculture Department "is not in the same position to help us as [it was] previously."
In the past year, the Forest Service completed a public-private competition for 1,200 information technology jobs and two large business process reengineering studies - in which the agency restructured human resources and financial management work. Together, the competition and reengineering studies are slated to produce savings of $91 million annually.
Forest Service officials had asked OMB for permission to hold off on initiating additional job competitions until fiscal 2006, which begins in October, to concentrate on implementing the IT study and the two reorganizations.
"Agency leadership was under the impression that there was OMB and Agriculture Department support" for that plan, but OMB recently "restated" that the Forest Service would be held "accountable for studying 100 full-time equivalent positions" this fiscal year, the e-mail said. This move was "unexpected," the message noted.
Forest Service officials are reviewing 700 communications positions to see if there are 100 that could be grouped together in a public-private competition, Christopher Pyron, the Forest Service's deputy chief for business operations, said in an interview earlier this week. The communications work, which ranges from public affairs to desktop publishing and graphic design, costs the agency roughly $81 million a year.
William Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees' Forest Service Council, said the plan makes little business sense and hints at the reintroduction of quotas for the number of jobs OMB would like agencies to open to competition from contractors each year. "Instead of looking at this logically, [the agency] is essentially picking these numbers out of the air," he said.
"It appears to us that the decision [has] already been made, and now the agency is scrambling to do the analysis to justify [its] decision," Dougan added. "How can the Forest Service be prepared to conduct a proper, thorough study in such a short time frame? . . . We are obviously concerned that in their haste [agency officials] will do an inadequate job of analysis."
But Pyron said if the agency can't make a strong business case for accepting bids on 100 communications jobs, there will be no contest. The review will be completed this fiscal year, but there is "no expectation" that a competition will follow, he said, adding that Forest Service, not OMB, originally proposed the numerical goal.
"We're not going to do things just to meet that target," Pyron said. "Nobody's asking us to do dumb stuff."
OMB officials also denied the return of competitive sourcing quotas, abandoned in July 2003 in favor of allowing agencies to negotiate custom goals. "OMB does not issue quotas for competitive sourcing," said Sarah Hawkins, a spokeswoman. "OMB does expect agencies to aggressively use competitive sourcing as a management tool to improve performance and generate savings for taxpayers."
The Forest Service had committed to competing 100 jobs as part of a plan to achieve a green light - the highest management score card rating - on competitive sourcing, said Jacqueline Myers, the agency's associate deputy chief for business operations. The Forest Service had sought permission to "slow down a bit," but Agriculture and OMB officials are "appropriately" encouraging the agency to keep the commitment, Pyron said.
The May 3 e-mail represented a "compilation of various conversations" and was intended as an internal note to update field managers on "hall chatter," Pyron said, adding he had not verified the accuracy of the message's contents. "One of the criticisms we've gotten from the field is that [we're] not giving enough information" he said. "We're really ratcheting up the amount of information that we're trying to send out to the field so that [managers] can see the big picture."
In doing so, "you always run the risk of . . . putting things in there that are interesting but not necessarily factual," Pyron said. He said he had no confirmation of conversations the e-mail attributes to the secretary of the Agriculture Department.
But Dougan said this misses the point. The Forest Service is reviewing communications jobs to find 100 suitable for a competition, and regardless of where the target originated, the accelerated timeframe puts the agency at risk of making "poor decisions with incomplete information in the name of meeting OMB quotas," he said.
"The targets may have been negotiated with OMB, but OMB is behind this thing," Dougan added. "If the agency had said: 'We're going to study 10 positions,' I would submit to you that that wouldn't have done it for OMB."
It's fine for agencies to set goals, and for OMB to hold them accountable on the score card for meeting those goals, as long as the targets aren't "plucked out of the air," said Alan Chvotkin, senior vice president of the Professional Services Council, an Arlington, Va.-based advocacy group representing contractors. He added that he has no knowledge of the Forest Service situation and has heard nothing to indicate that OMB is reinstating governmentwide quotas for competitive sourcing.
PSC would oppose such a move, as any numerical goals should be tied to an agency's mission, Chvotkin said.
But John Threlkeld, a lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees, said union members have documented multiple instances where "the numerical privatization quotas, although outlawed by Congress and ostensibly repudiated by OMB, are, unfortunately alive and well . . . resulting in [public-private competitions] being conducted for political reasons, rather than policy reasons."
Closure could cause brain drain
Saturday, May 14, 2005
By TOM DAVIS
TINTON FALLS - Matt Moffitt of Ocean Grove grew up in New Jersey, but he won't ever move to Maryland - even if the Pentagon insists.
If Fort Monmouth closes, Moffitt will use his electronics engineering expertise elsewhere. "I'm smart," he said. "I can find a job."
Moffitt and the Fort Monmouth community plan to fight Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's recommendation that the 88-year-old base be closed.
But before that occurs, the community wants Pentagon officials to know: If it happens, it's their loss.
If they think the base's workforce will easily move to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland - where a majority of the jobs would be transferred - forget it.
"Who would want to leave this area?" said Francesco A. Musorrafiti, chairman of EPS, an engineering contractor that does business with Fort Monmouth.
The region greeted the news partly with outrage, but also with ambivalence.
The Army's top communications research center is also one of Monmouth County's largest employers. Unlike other bases, almost all of Fort Monmouth employees are civilian. Another 2,500 contractors work on post. Many have settled their families locally.
If Fort Monmouth moves, some say, much of the brainpower that helped upgrade communications technology in the Iraq war will stay behind. Local officials believe the Base Realignment and Closure Commission will recognize that.
The 25-member Governor's Commission to Support and Enhance New Jersey Military and Coast Guard Installations was to meet this morning at Monmouth University to discuss the issue. Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., addressing a town forum at Monmouth Regional High School, drew laughs when he touched on the human dimension: "They said they can get 75 to 80 percent of the people moved to a new location," he said. "We have to be investing in Fort Monmouth, not diminishing it."
The community is also confident of success, pointing out that lobbying saved Fort Monmouth in 1988 and 1993, when the base was similarly threatened with closure.
Even one of the base's commanding officers, Maj. Gen. Michael Mazzucchi, said he doesn't sense high anxiety. He said that even if the base is to close, it would take at least six years to complete the transfer.
"It's not quite 'The sky is falling! The sky is falling!'Ÿ" he said.
Others, however, said employees are waiting for the right moment to be heard.
"I'm mad as hell, and you folks ought to be mad as hell," said John Poitras, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1904, which represents about 3,000 base workers. "Let's shove this right back in the Army's face."
BRAC AND THE ARSENAL: Fear evolves into shock
By Tory Brecht
Apprehension abounded Friday morning on the Rock Island Arsenal as factory and office workers hunched around computers and radios, anxious to learn the fate of their island.
As details trickled in — realignment rather than closure, white-collar jobs hit the hardest, manufacturing virtually untouched — emotions ranged from relief to fear for the future.
The one word most often uttered by the hundreds of office workers facing the prospect of their jobs being scattered across the country was shock.
“I was pretty shocked,” said Terri Blackburn, a logistics management specialist with the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM. “Like everyone else, we thought manufacturing was going to be the one.”
TACOM and its 1,100 jobs are earmarked for transfer to Warren, Mich., and Columbus, Ohio, in the recommendations.
Blackburn knows the move is not a done deal yet, but she’s also aware that in past BRAC actions, 85 percent of the initial recommendations were ultimately implemented.
“People are still holding out a little hope that things will change,” said Blackburn, who has worked on the island for 23 years. “You always think it’s not going to happen to me until they hand you that piece of paper.”
Fred Smith, the site manager of TACOM, was a little emotional at a late afternoon news conference on the island.
“We have really good people who do really good work,” he said. “To be told you’re going to be moved, sometimes you take it personally. But this has nothing to do with the quality of their work.”
Smith said managers in TACOM are meeting frequently with employees and encouraging those who are struggling to make use of the Employee Assistance Program and counselors. If the recommendations are approved, more help — in the form of assistance in selling homes, early retirement or voluntary severance incentive pay — will be offered, Smith added.
Over at the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, which many call The Factory, relief that most blue-collar work appears safe was tempered by sympathy and concern for white-collar co-workers.
“I’m kind of happy, but I feel sorry for some of the other people who are going to lose jobs or have to move or whatever,” said Mike Soppe, a machinist from Davenport who works on armor kits for Humvees with 21 years put in at the Arsenal. “It’s a relief to know you still have a job and I can get to my full retirement.”
Soppe and other factory workers believe their jobs were spared because the nation is at war.
“We’ve been busier than heck with this war going on,” Soppe said. “I think it would have been a different outcome if BRAC happened before the war.”
His thoughts were echoed by Jeff Louck, who works in the hazardous-materials warehouse.
“Unfortunately, no one wants to see a war break out, but I think the war in some ways has helped the Arsenal,” said Louck. “Now we’re making armored doors for the Humvees and other trucks, refurbishing trailers that are going to Iraq and bringing back part of the M119 Howitzer program to Rock Island.”
Joe Findley, vice president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 2119 — which represents the bulk of blue-collar manufacturing workers on the island — said Friday’s news took the weight off quite a few shoulders.
“It’s a relief,” he said. “It’s a big relief for the manufacturing complex. We had a concern they might close us altogether, but I guess they figured out we are a vital part of the military and the capabilities, the job we do and the dedication of our workforce is valuable.”
Thoughts turn now toward the future for the workers in TACOM, human resources, finance and accounting and other operations slated for relocation.
Marta Howotte, an accounting technician with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, is trying to think positive.
“Like anything, it’s another opportunity to move on and do different things,” she said. “I’d move. A job is a job. I’m very proud of the job I do to support the troops and whether I do it here or someplace else, I’m doing the same mission. I think a lot of people here feel the same way.”
In her 26 years working for the Defense Department, Howotte has learned to take a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to government decisions.
“I tell people not to get too upset, because Congress must still approve the list,” she said. “We don’t want anybody to go out and sell their home or do anything crazy like that, because it’s still up in the air.”
The BRAC decision won’t be sent to Congress until November and even after that, the military has up to six years to implement the changes.
But contemplating major life changes is frightening for many longtime employees who have spent the bulk of their careers on the island, said Marta Haire, an inventory supply specialist with TACOM.
“I know to some people, it’s hit them hard,” she said. “There are individuals who have been here many years that don’t want to move or can’t move.”
Friday’s news was especially jolting around the TACOM office, she said.
“There was a lot of shock,” she said. We didn’t think it would be us. In fact a lot of people didn’t believe it until it was in writing.”
Finance center people surprised by decision
Web Posted: 05/14/2005 12:00 AM CDT
Express-News Staff Writer
Yolanda Vilches got the phone call at 9 a.m. Friday.
"Are you aware that we're on the BRAC list?" a panicked voice asked. "I found it online."
"No," Vilches replied, frantically scouring the Internet. "I haven't seen anything yet."
She raced to Col. Jack Conroy's office, two floors down from hers. "I have this list," she told him. "We're on it, but I don't know if it's legit."
Conroy had just received his own list — an official one — and he quickly confirmed the distressing news: The Defense Finance and Accounting Service in San Antonio has been recommended for closure, along with 20 other DFAS sites nationwide.
Activated in 1996, San Antonio's DFAS occupies 41/2 floors of the SBC building on McCullough Avenue. Here, 370 people, most of them civilians, pay some of the military's bills — medical expenses for the Army and training and education costs for the Air Force.
By 9:30, more than 150 people had gathered in the auditorium, where Conroy announced that yes, the rumors were true — the site is on the closure list. Just as he finished speaking, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appeared on two television screens at the front of the room.
"We're still trying to digest it," the silver-haired, soft-spoken Conroy said an hour later. "We were hopeful that we wouldn't be on it. We had no advance information — a lot of rumors, but nothing substantial."
Vilches, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1022, which represents DFAS workers, had a feeling the San Antonio office might make the list.
A few days ago, she got a call from DFAS headquarters' human resources, informing her that a representative would be here immediately after the list was made public. That, she thought, didn't sound promising.
If Congress approves the closure, people have three options: take early retirement; move to a DFAS site in Denver, Indianapolis or Columbus, Ohio; or ask to be put at the top of the list for any federal government openings in San Antonio.
Throughout the day, cubicles throughout the DFAS offices buzzed with the grim news. People wanted to find out what their colleagues planned to do. Many here are refugees from Kelly AFB, which closed in 2001, a victim of the 1995 BRAC recommendations.
"So," someone asked Marlene Rodriguez, "will you be going to Indianapolis?"
Rodriguez shrugged. "If that's where they send us. My kids still like to eat."
Pentagon proposal: Cut 1,500 jobs from arsenal
Guard units, including D.M., gain positions in shuffle
By ERIN JORDAN and JANE NORMAN
REGISTER STAFF WRITERS
Rock Island, Ill. - The Rock Island Arsenal, with half its workers from Iowa, would lose 1,500 jobs if Pentagon recommendations released Friday are adopted.
The proposals were part of a list of closures and realignments for military installations across the country.
Also included in the recommendations was the closing of naval reserve centers in Cedar Rapids, Sioux City and Dubuque, causing a loss of about 30 jobs. Some National Guard units would be realigned.
Lt. Col. Greg Hapgood said the Iowa National Guard would gain jobs in the shuffle. "We've done very well," he said.
The units at the Des Moines and Sioux City airports would get new planes, with Des Moines' fleet also growing by two or three fighter jets.
The 132nd Fighter Wing, based at the Des Moines airport, would gain 47 jobs after converting to newer F-16 fighters and expanding the jet fleet, Hapgood said. The newer jets are expected to be used longer by the military, which should help keep jobs in Des Moines longer, he said.
The 185th Air Refueling Wing, based at Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City, also is slated to get new planes. Hapgood said jobs would be added there, but he's not sure how many. Early reports from the Defense Department said the unit would gain 203 jobs.
Federal officials reported 218 jobs would be cut at the Armed Forces Reserve Center at Camp Dodge, a proposed facility. Hapgood said he confirmed that none of those jobs is affiliated with the Iowa National Guard. He said any cuts - if there actually are jobs to cut - would be from five federal military units associated with the center.
Hapgood declined to discuss the center's mission.
News of possible closure shocked some Rock Island employees who hoped their departments would be unscathed.
"I don't know where the future lies," said Robyn Buffington, 34, who works for the Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, which would lose 1,100 jobs if the recommendations are approved.
Buffington has lived in Rock Island her entire life but said she would probably follow her job if it moves to Ohio or Michigan. "I think it will be all right. It's just hard to leave your family," she said.
Members of other units fearing the ax heaved a sigh of relief Friday.
"We came out of it pretty good," said Diane Scott, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2119.
The union represents blue-collar workers at the manufacturing plant that gained major attention last year for making armored doors for Humvees to protect soldiers in Iraq. The plant, which employs about 1,000 people, would lose 181 jobs. "We feel really badly for other agencies," Scott said.
Nationally, Iowa's loss of jobs couldn't compare to those in some states such as Maine, with an estimated 7,000 military and civilian jobs at risk from the closure of a shipyard and an Air Force base.
Residents of Georgia would see Fort Gillem, outside of Atlanta, close and some of its operations shifted to Rock Island if the 1st Army Headquarters is shifted there as recommended. The base-closing report noted the cost of living would be lower for workers in Iowa. Fort Gillem has operated as an Army depot for more than 60 years, according to its Web site, and the installation served as a trainer and supplier throughout World War II.
Gaining about 150 military jobs was a bright spot for Rock Island officials, as was the cumulative effect of retaining about three-fourths of the 6,400 jobs at the arsenal.
"To have a glass that is 80 percent full, we're pretty pleased with that," said Thomas Hart, president of the Quad City Development Group.
Hart said it's too soon to know how the potential job losses would affect the Quad Cities' economy. But a loss of at least 20 percent of the arsenal's jobs would mean at least a loss of several million dollars, he said.
The arsenal is the region's second-largest employer behind John Deere and has a total economic impact of $1.1 billion, he said.
Development leaders and politicians vowed Friday to try to convince the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which will make recommendations on base changes to President Bush by Sept. 8, that the mostly white-collar units recommended to be moved from the arsenal should stay in Rock Island.
"We value the knowledge-based jobs that have been a priority to economic development," Hart said. These jobs, including accountants and engineers, can be difficult to replace in a community, he said.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa said that the arsenal put itself in the best possible position before the report came out, and that local supporters will have to "fight to the end to show the value of the arsenal and the work done at this outstanding facility."
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa said the Rock Island Arsenal is "essential to our national security, and I will fight to ensure it remains fully operational."
The Naval Reserve centers in Cedar Rapids, Sioux City and Dubuque were recommended for closure, which would mean one center left in the state, in Des Moines.
Lt. Commander Greg Clark said the Cedar Rapids center employs eight people who process paperwork and drill about 100 reservists who live mostly in eastern Iowa. "We're kind of taken aback by this, of course, but we will do what we need to do," Clark said.
Lt. Col. Greg Schwab, wing commander at the Des Moines airport, said the switch to a different plane would help the unit work more efficiently. He said the wing would have 18 jets instead of the current 15 because the Defense Department decided that would save administrative costs.
"The good news is that we are not one of the bases closing," Schwab said. "In fact, there is a net gain in jobs. That's all good news."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the recommendations, if implemented, would save the government $48.8 billion over 20 years. Part of the annual $5.5 billion savings would be used to carry out the changes, including environmental cleanup at the downsized bases.
Rumsfeld originally said a quarter of the 425 major military installations in the United States could face cuts but later reduced that estimate by half, saying U.S. bases would be needed to accommodate 70,000 troops and their families returning from abroad.
CCAD workers not cut
Loss of 92 jobs is in auxiliary operation
By Kathryn Garcia Caller-Times
May 14, 2005
Corpus Christi Army Depot employees will not be affected by Department of Defense recommendations Friday to eliminate 92 civilian jobs, according to depot commander Col. Timothy Sassenrath.
The positions will come from the Defense Distribution Center, which works closely with the depot, Sassenrath said. The center is across the street from the depot.
The 92 positions were slotted on the commission's list because the distribution center's functions serve only as support to the depot, Sassenrath said.
The nine-member Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended that certain responsibilities at the distribution center be moved to Oklahoma City, where they will be consolidated with the Strategic Distribution Platform, Sassenrath said.
The centralization of shipping, receiving and storage of materials, such as tires, packaged petroleum, oils and compressed gases, is expected to shift north.
Should the recommendations be accepted by Congress, employees might have to make a choice to move to keep their jobs. But, as Sassenrath pointed out,
Should the recommendations be accepted by Congress, employees might have to make a choice to move to keep their jobs. But, as Sassenrath pointed out, "Anything on that would be speculation. My guess would be relocation to Oklahoma City."
Sassenrath said he briefed the staff at lunch.
"They were happy that our jobs were going to be secure, but they have some empathy for those that would have to relocate," Sassenrath said.
The realignment recommendations, which came on the same day as the depot employee appreciation day, sent shock waves through the staff of more than 4,000, said Rudy Gutierrez, vice president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 2142. Gutierrez said that with as many employees eligible or nearing retirement, the 92 positions could be reassigned within the depot after attrition or placed in current open positions.
The depot was left untouched by the realignment commission because they are meeting the needs of the troops, Gutierrez said.
"We're one of the largest rotary wing maintenance facilities in the nation," Gutierrez said. "Right now the sandy conditions deteriorate the main rotor blades that we have to do around-the-clock work and try to keep up with the demand. As soon as we get through with them, they go straight to Iraq."
Sassenrath said he was relieved to see only minor changes to the depot and its staff.
"We didn't know what to expect," Sassenrath said. "I think it says what we are doing is right and that it's what the (Department of Defense) needs."
The nine-member commission now must review the list making final recommendations to President Bush by Sept. 8.
Fort Lewis, McChord head toward merger
Proposed consolidation could help save billions
MICHAEL GILBERT; The News Tribune
Last updated: May 14th, 2005 03:12 AM (PDT)
They’ve operated side-by-side but independently for the better part of 67 years, but there’s likely a wedding in the future for Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base.
The two big military bases would merge as “Joint Base Lewis-McChord,” one of seven new multiservice installations in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s base closure and realignment proposal, released Friday.
All in all, the base closure package was good news for Washington’s military installations. Rumsfeld would:
• Close Army, Navy and Marine Corps reserve facilities in Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, Spokane and Vancouver, and move most Army Reserve operations to Fort Lewis.
• Add 1,401 industrial jobs at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton.
• Spare bases thought to be at least slightly vulnerable to closure, including Fairchild Air Force Base, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and Naval Station Everett. Whidbey would gain 173 civilian jobs, and Fairchild would lose eight KC-135 refueling jets to make way for new tankers, when and if the Air Force procures them.
“We’ve obviously very excited and very pleased,” U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Edmonds) said in a conference call following Friday morning’s announcement at the Pentagon.
“It’s a very positive endorsement of our military installations in the state of Washington.”
Gov. Christine Gregoire likewise called the announcement “a great success.”
“We wanted to avoid base closures. We achieved that,” she said in a statement. “We wanted to avoid realignments of base missions that would have large economic impacts. There are some realignments, but we were able to avoid major problems.
“Third, we wanted to be in a position to allow new missions to come to Washington,” Gregoire said. “We were successful there, too.”
Rumsfeld’s proposal goes to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which has until Sept. 8 to add or subtract bases and send its list to President Bush. The president can approve or reject the commission’s list, or send it back for more consideration.
The prospect of a Joint Base Lewis-McChord caught officials at both installations a bit off guard Friday. Public affairs officers had scheduled separate news conferences – 11 a.m. at Fort Lewis and 1 p.m. at McChord.
But when Rumsfeld’s recommendations came out, officials scrambled to change plans.
At noon, Fort Lewis garrison commander Col. Michael Stephenson hustled over to McChord to appear with 62nd Airlift Wing commander Col. Wayne Schatz.
“We just found out about this today,” Schatz confessed.
The proposed merger “solidifies the close partnership that our two installations have enjoyed for years,” Stephenson said.
Neither commander could say exactly what it will mean in everyday working terms. Rumsfeld’s report calls for realigning McChord “by relocating the installation management functions to Fort Lewis.”
It envisions savings through economies of scale, cutting redundant layers of management and the creation of one authority for management of land, office space and vehicle fleets.
“Lots of those details are still to be worked out over the next several years,” Schatz said.
The report spelled out one specific change: relocating all of McChord’s medical functions to Fort Lewis. McChord’s clinic is underused compared to the rest of the military health care system, the report said.
Turning management over to Fort Lewis could cut up to 101 military and civilian jobs by 2011 and save $11.6 million a year, the report said.
Improving “jointness” – the Pentagon word to mean military branches working as one seamless entity – is one of the major goals of Rumsfeld’s reorganization.
The Pentagon says it thinks it can save $2.3 billion over the next 20 years with the mergers identified in Friday’s report.
It predicted that the Fort Lewis-McChord merger could cut the civilian work force at the two bases by 776 jobs by 2011 – a prospect that was not greeted as good news by a McChord union president.
“We’re going to have a hand in this. This is not finalized yet,” said Lee Wicker of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1501 at McChord. The union represents civil service employees at the local base and at Fairchild, commissary and base exchange workers and others.
But U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Belfair), who has sent billions in military construction programs to state bases over the past two decades, cheered the merger idea.
“It’ll be an evolutionary thing,” Dicks said. “That’s what ‘joint’ is all about. … They might as well bring the Navy and the Marines in there, too.”
The combination of combat power at Fort Lewis and strategic airlift at McChord, with the nearby deep water ports and major rail hubs, and a perch on the Pacific Rim, make the local bases key.
“If you’re talking about what the military in the future should be all about, this is really it,” Dicks said.
Rumsfeld called for a number of other more modest changes. Management responsibility for the Regional Corrections Center at Fort Lewis – an Army jail – will be shifted to the Navy brig at Submarine Base Bangor.
The Army Reserve would dissolve its 70th Regional Readiness Command – responsible for thousands of reservists across the Northwest – and close Fort Lawton, located on 46 acres in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood.
The soldiers from the 70th and some of its subordinate units would be reformed at Fort Lewis as a new “maneuver enhancement brigade.” Exactly what functions that new brigade would perform haven’t been determined, officials said.
“I think at first there was initial shock, but people are keeping an open mind,” said Maj. Hillary Luton, a Reserve spokeswoman at Fort Lawton. “We’ll wait until the president has the final word and then we’ll move on from there.
“Seeing the transitions the military has made in the last 22 years, nothing surprises me anymore,” she added. “I will continue to do what the Army tells me to do, and go where the Army sends me.”
Navy and Marine Corps reservists would likewise see their facility on the Tacoma Tideflats closed. There was no indication in Rumsfeld’s report where the 20 service members who work there would be placed.
Fort Lewis would also handle mobilizations – all the administrative procedures in getting reservists ready for active-duty and deployment – for the submarine base at Bangor.
Friday’s report shed no new light on whether local bases will acquire any of the 70,000 service members who are being brought home from Germany and Korea. Fort Lewis is thought to be in line to lose a Stryker brigade to Germany, but gain a brigade from the returning 1st Armor Division.
Likewise, there was no news about the prospective move of I Corps from Fort Lewis to Japan.
But now the post has a new job: getting ready to hitch up a little closer with its next-door neighbor.
Schatz, the McChord boss, seemed to bristle at the suggestion that such a partnership might be difficult.
“We work together every day,” he said.
Michael Gilbert: 253-597-8921
Other joint bases proposed Friday
• Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, in New Jersey (Air Force, Army, Navy)
• Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facility Washington, in Maryland (Air Force, Navy)
• Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling-Naval Research Laboratory, in Washington, D.C. (Navy, Air Force, Navy)
• Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Virginia (Army, Marines)
• Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in Alaska (Air Force, Army)
• Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, in Hawaii (Navy, Air Force)
Detroit Arsenal gains jobs in plan
PUBLISHED: May 14, 2005
By Dan Heaton
Macomb Daily Business Editor
America still needs the Arsenal of Democracy.
The Department of Defense said Friday that not only is the Detroit Arsenal not on a list of scores of bases slated to close in the next two years around the nation, but that the Warren complex will actually increase its responsibilities, adding a net gain of 647 more employees.
In a several-inches-thick report issued Friday outlining its rationale for closing, realigning or maintaining all of its 500-plus U.S. facilities, the DOD said "the synergies gained from having a critical mass located in southeast Michigan, and being able to leverage the world's intellectual capital for automotive/ground vehicle research, and development and acquisition, will ensure the department is prepared to meet future demands." It went on to call the Arsenal the DOD's "premier facility" for ground vehicle development and acquisition.
"We fought and we won the Cold War," said Major Gen. Mike Lenaers, commanding officer of the 4,100-employee Detroit Arsenal.
"Now we have a new war. We have to shape the Army for the future (and) do the right thing for our nation."
U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, who represents the Warren area in Congress, stood at Lenaers' side Friday afternoon.
"The work that goes on here is so critical for our military," Levin said. "Now the military says in its report that it wants to leverage the world's intellectual capital here. We here in Michigan are proud of those words.
"It is also a challenge for us, for the future," Levin said.
The Arsenal, which includes the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command or TACOM, was created in the run-up to World War II. During the war, a tank plant connected to the command manufactured thousands of tanks for the U.S. Army, helping to earn the Detroit area the term "the Arsenal of Democracy." The tank production plant closed 10 years ago in a previous round of military base closings and re-alignment. Still in Warren at the Arsenal are dozens of research labs staffed by scientists and engineers who work to develop new and better tanks, trucks and other equipment for the Army. Another wing of the Arsenal manages all the military's equipment, keeping track of Humvees, weapons and other items now in the hands of soldiers in Iraq. Other divisions at the Arsenal award billions of dollars worth of Army contracts to various manufacturers, including dozens of local companies, ranging from giants like General Dynamics and United Technologies, to smaller firms, such as the Troy office of Radian, a 65-employee firm that provides engineering support to TACOM.
"Right now, we are working with them on an armoring project for military vehicles," said Sandy McLeod, director of the land systems division for Radian. "Our proximity to TACOM enabled us to move the design development a lot quicker. That gets this material out to the soldiers in the field much quicker."
McLeod is also president of the Detroit chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, which has more than 80 area defense contractors as members, in addition to 800-plus individual members who support the Army.
"The expansion of the arsenal is good news for all of us. All of these smaller contractors, they are here because this is where the Arsenal is. If that's not here, we're not here," McLeod said.
While Levin, the chamber of commerce and other groups were lobbying to keep the Arsenal open because of its military strengths, after the announcement there was more talk about the local impact from the facility.
"This is a huge win for Warren, Macomb County and the state of Michigan," Warren Mayor Mark Steenbergh said.
While the announcements from the DOD showed a net gain of 647 jobs at the Arsenal, the number comes from a departure of 108 positions and an influx of 755 -- primarily project analysts being consolidated to Warren from TACOM's operations in Rock Island and others moving from the Army's Joint Robotics Development Center at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.
"What you hope happens is that with the realignments you can pick people up from one program to another and not have to displace too many people," said Dan Martin, president of Local 1658 of the American Federation of Government Employees.
"We sympathize with the other installations, but we have to be happy today for our own members. There are a lot of smiles around here today," Martin said.
Ron Robinson, a Warren resident who has worked at the Arsenal for 24 years, said with the announcement looming, some of his co-workers were contemplating having to move if there were to be major reductions at the Arsenal.
Now, "we're excited about the prospects," Robinson said.
Workers at the complex described a scene of employees crowded around TVs this morning, waiting for "official" news from Washington D.C. on the fate of the Arsenal.
"My dad called me at 9:20 and said he heard the good news," said Brian Filar of Grosse Pointe, a contractor at the base the past six years. "I said, 'What news?' He said he heard we're safe. We didn't have a clue (up until then.)"
Report Due Monday, Fight Starts Today
ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS -- The full, detailed BRAC, or Base Realignment and Closure report, is not due out until Monday. But the hard work began today to keep arsenal jobs at home.
Three Arsenal union representatives met with Congressman Lane Evans this afternoon to talk strategy.
"Being in one location is not as important as it use to be," says Tom Esparza, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (A.F.G.E) - Local 15 union. He represents TACOM, the Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command at the Arsenal. He raises a good point, one that Congressman Evans will include in his appeal to the BRAC Commission.
TACOM is involved in logistics, basically buying and maintaining weapons systems. With 1,100 jobs, TACOM is one of the largest divisions at the Arsenal. All of TACOM will be moved if the BRAC recommendations are approved. The majority of the jobs will go to Warren, Michigan, near Detroit.
Few argue the military must make cuts. But local law makers are questioning the cost benefits of relocating to Warren.
In TACOM's case, staying at the Arsenal allows those who buy the weapons to be next those who fix them. The government owns the land at the Arsenal, but rents the facility in Warren. Because of the low cost of living in the Quad Cities, the government can pay lower salaries at the Arsenal. Also, while the Arsenal has space to grow, there is no clear indication where the new employees will go in Warren.
"For government, I don't know where the efficiency is going to come in," says Terri Blackburn, an Arsenal employee, about the possibility of jobs being moved to Warren.
Meanwhile, Congressman Evans, who held marathon meetings Saturday morning in Springfield, before racing back for more BRAC meeting in the Q.C.A., says there needs to be a plan of action.
Evans insists workers must stay involved. He wants them to be part of a letter writing campaign. He says local law-makers are working to get before the BRAC Commission and are also pushing to have field meetings at the Arsenal with as many of the nine BRAC Commissioners as possible. Evans and others will also examine what the BRAC reports says about the cities that could wind up with the Arsenal's jobs.
Evans also argues against closing bases at a time of war. He told the union reps, because BRAC used 2003 employment figures to compile their report, it creates loopholes in the report.
Staffers at Evan's office add another report from the GA.O., the Government Accountability Office, is due out at the beginning of July. They are pushing to make sure the G.A.O. report uses current employment figure so they can use the report to counter the BRAC report. Evans says, "It's a tough battle ahead. We're going to fight like the devil to get it done."
Now comes the hard part: Erasing bases from Pentagon hit list
Web Posted: 05/15/2005 12:00 AM CDT
Express-News Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — Armed with stacks of data and personal pleas, Texas lawmakers now begin the politically painful process of trying to remove local installations from a Pentagon closure list and protect their state's share of millions in military spending.
Minutes after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced recommendations Friday to close 33 major military installations, Texas leaders vowed to fight for Brooks City-Base, Inigleside Naval Station, Red River Army Depot and the Lone Star Ammunition Plant.
Closing those four would eliminate thousands of jobs that provide an economic boost to San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Texarkana.
"I am going to go to bat for them with all my strength," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.
However, the chances of removing a base from the closure list seem slim at best. Only 15 percent of installations targeted for elimination in four previous rounds — 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995 — were spared.
"Challenging the recommendations is difficult, at best," said Mike Lucinski with Business Executives for National Security, a non-profit organization of corporate executives who advocate streamlining defense operations.
"Unfortunately for the communities, it's not the best of odds," Lucinski said.
Rumsfeld is scheduled to appear before the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, commonly called BRAC, Monday, when it begins four days of hearings. Officials from the Air Force and Navy will testify Tuesday, followed Wednesday by the Army.
The commission has until Sept. 8 to review the Pentagon's recommendations and submit a final list of base closures to President Bush.
The president may accept or reject but not alter the list.
"I committed to the Congress, to the president and to the American people, that our deliberations and decisions would be based on the criteria set forth in statue and devoid of politics," said Anthony Principi, the commission chairman.
But even before the panel begins its review, organized labor urged the Defense Department to consider a two-year delay in implementing base closures due to the conflict in Iraq and the war on terror.
"This is not the time to scale back and close military installations that provide valuable services and equipment that help keep us safe," said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents civilian workers at Lackland AFB and other San Antonio bases.
"Thousands of loyal workers will lose their jobs and entire communities will be destabilized because military installations are usually the biggest employers, especially in rural areas," Gage said.
Organized labor isn't alone in counseling restraint.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said he will file a bipartisan bill to delay the base closure round for two years, or "until we have a better understanding of our future military and security needs."
The Pentagon's proposal to close Ellsworth AFB in Rapid City, S.D., would eliminate 6,768 jobs, or 8.5 percent of that city's employment.
Some of those jobs would move to Dyess AFB in Abilene, part of a generally positive BRAC impact on Texas, which would see a net gain in jobs under Rumsfeld's plan.
Nevertheless, state lawmakers wasted no time in pledging to fight for the threatened bases.
"The worst situation for us, from a community standpoint, is Texarkana," said Hutchison, who's considering a gubernatorial challenge to Gov. Rick Perry next year. "For Texarkana to lose both their ammunition depot and Army depot is beyond comprehension."
Perry is creating a "strike force" to persuade federal officials to keep bases open, and he has invited Hutchison and other lawmakers to join him in a tour of communities expected to be hard hit by closures.
Pentagon analysts said the closures could mean a loss of 4,176 jobs — or 6.2 percent of the area's employment. The recommendation comes despite increased work shifts at the Red River Army Depot to install armor on Humvees headed to Iraq.
Closing Ingleside and realigning Corpus Christi Naval Air Station would cost more than 6,800 jobs — 3.1 percent of the area's workforce — the Pentagon estimates.
"The clock is ticking and the job before us is enormous," said Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi.
In San Antonio, the effort will focus on saving Brooks City-Base, which accounts for more than 4,000 jobs and an annual payroll of $264 million. That figure doesn't include millions more paid to contractors.
Freshman Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who may face opposition in the Democratic primary in March, said he will push the Air Force to defend its decision, and fight for redevelopment funds if Brooks is closed.
"I just want to be sure every employee at Brooks has a job," said Cuellar, whose congressional district includes the San Antonio base.
Air Force officials will explain their closure recommendations to the commission Tuesday.
In the coming weeks, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he plans to ask the Air Force for its rationale in closing Brooks in light of substantial savings to the military after the city took over maintenance of the base.
Earlier this year, Nelson Gibbs, assistant secretary for Air Force installations and environment, described Brooks as a success story.
"It has been very successful," Gibbs told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "The Air Force pays basically for the services it receives from the city at standard rates. And we believe we've saved a fair amount of money."
Published May 15, 2005
The assault on New York federal prison guard Louis Pepe was an extraordinary one, but it gives a sense of the dangers facing federal corrections officers. On Nov. 1, 2000, Mr. Pepe suffered severe brain damage after the man reputed to be Osama bin Laden's best friend, al Qaeda operative Mahmdouh Mahmud Salim, stabbed him in the eye with a knife he fashioned from a plastic comb. After Salim was convicted of assaulting Mr. Pepe, he was sent to the federal "supermax" prison in Florence, Col., where the government keeps its most dangerous inmates. But for Mr. Pepe, the damage was already done.
Less dramatic attacks occur all the time against Bureau of Prisons officers, most of whom are unarmed and circulate in open areas among prisoners. The question currently in dispute between the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents its officers, is whether the frequency is increasing. The union claims that staffing shortfalls are leaving officers vulnerable to dangerous inmates. The Bureau of Prisons says its numbers don't support that.
And indeed no definitive evidence has emerged that assaults are spiking. But that's not to say the risk isn't there. The typical inmate today is more likely to be a violent offender with a long sentence and little to lose by attacking his guards than the typical inmate of a decade or two ago. Add to that a burgeoning prison-crowding problem and a worsening inmate-to-officer ratio. The big picture is a tougher inmate population and fewer officers to control it.
The AFGE makes its case with preliminary Bureau of Prisons assault data for 2004-5, which appear to suggest a recent uptick in incidents. In the one-year period ending in February, there were 176 reports of prisoners assaulting officers with weapons in federal prisons, according to a bureau correctional services significant incidents report. (The bureau defines a weapon as anything from a gun smuggled inside a facility to a knife fashioned from wire or plastic like Salim's or a toxic substance.) Those numbers are significantly higher than the figures for the same 1999-2000 period: 107 incidents.
Rising absolute numbers are a given in a system where the inmate population increased by 24 percent over those five years. But the reported assaults in the data the AFGE points to rose by 64 percent with weapons, and those without weapons are up 37 percent.
The apparent rise in assaults might not be anything statistically significant. Presented with the union's charges, the Bureau of Prisons produced a chart covering post-adjudication cases from 1999-2003 that shows a per-inmate assault ratio that actually declined, albeit very slightly, over the period 1999 to 2003. For every 5,000 inmates, one officer was assaulted with a weapon in 1999, by the bureau's reckoning. Slightly fewer officers were assaulted in 2000, but slightly more in 2001 and 2002, and fewer in 2003.
If assaults have remained mostly static, that could only be in spite of conditions. Ten years ago, with a prisoner population of 90,159, there was one staffer for every 2.6 prisoners. In 2003, with a population of 146,212, there was one for every 4. 3 prisoners. So the number of prisoners each officer must watch has increased significantly over the last 10 years.
The prison population itself has gotten more violent, at least to judge by the type of convictions they have. For instance, the proportion of inmates in medium- or high-security federal prison on arms, explosives or arson charges is up about 50 percent since 1995.
The overcrowding problem seems destined to worsen. Considerable increases in homeland-security spending and a budget boost for the FBI are likely to result in more arrests and convictions for federal crime. This year, the Bush administration moved to cut money for federal prison construction in its fiscal 2006 budget request, declaring a moratorium until studies determine the best ways to meet the capacity challenges.
Congress should keep a close eye on the situation. We owe it to law-abiding citizens to get criminals off the streets, and we owe it to the prison guards to give them the tools to safely manage their prisoners.
Defense rule tightens use of long-term contracts
By Kimberly Palmer
A new proposed rule from the Defense Department would tighten the use of contracts that extend beyond one year - a policy that could further restrict the ability of agencies to introduce private sector contracting methods.
The rule, which implements sections of the 2005 Defense Appropriations Act and 2005 National Defense Authorization Act, prohibits the Pentagon from using funds appropriated for fiscal 2005 for multiyear contracts that obligate the government to pay funds that have not yet been approved by Congress. The rule allows for certain exceptions, including if the secretary of Defense asks Congress for funding ahead of time or if the contract can be canceled without penalty.
The rule also specifies that cancellation fees of over $100 million on multiyear contracts must be explained to Congress.
"Funding restrictions probably cause the greatest amount of harm to the procurement process," said Chip Mather, former contracting officer and co-founder of Acquisition Solutions Inc., a consulting company in Oakton, Va. Because agencies are only guaranteed funding on an annual basis, they can't offer long-lasting contracts that give contractors incentives to invest in a project, which Mather said would lower costs.
Private sector companies frequently use multiyear contracts, largely to encourage investment.
Mather said that the effect of this proposed rule would probably be limited, however, because many contracting officers already avoid using multiyear contracts as a result of current restrictions. Instead, he said, contracting officers often use a series of one-year contracts, or contracts with options for renewal after congressional funding is secured.
Congressional approval of funds used to buy goods and services frequently divides those who support the expanded use of private sector contracting in government from those who are more concerned with congressional oversight. Share-in-savings contracts, which allow contractors to finance investments for agencies in return for keeping a portion of the savings, generate disagreement over whether or not the contracts violate appropriations rules.
In December, Jacque Simon, director of the American Federation of Government Employee's public policy department, criticized share-in-savings contracts because they obligate the government to pay contractors in the future, before that money is appropriated. Share-in-savings contracts are currently restricted to information technology purchases.
Few people expect the annual appropriations process to change. "The annual and biannual appropriations acts are sacred, so [contracting officers] are trying to figure out a way around them," said Mather.
The Office of Management and Budget did not have jurisdiction over the proposed rule. David Safavian, head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said the rule and the law that requires it "are consistent with OMB's approach to full funding of major acquisitions. We don't see anything in the rule that would undermine performance-based contracting or other innovations."
A spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who has spearheaded acquisition reforms, including share-in-savings, declined to comment on the proposed rule.
Defense will accept comments on the rule until July 8.