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Since December, 49 employees have been laid off at Wyle in Lexington Park.

The layoffs, which happened in three phases, are related to the company losing a contract at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, according to a Wyle spokesman, not sequestration or other federal budget cuts.

Wyle lost its contract to support the E-2 radar and communications aircraft to another company, Imagine One Technology and Management. It’s something that happens frequently in the aerospace industry, said Dan Reeder, manager of corporate communications for Wyle.

Many of those employees have been placed in other jobs with Wyle, Reeder said, who said management has been “sensitive” in their communication with employees about the change. The Wyle employees “are talented people,” Reeder said, adding that it’s possible some could transfer over to Imagine One, which has an office in Lexington Park and is headquartered Colonial Beach, Va. Similar moves, where employees leave one company to follow contract work, are common among defense contractors.

Wyle protested the contract decision with the federal Government Accountability Office, saying that the government’s selection process was improper. GAO denied the claim. GAO reported in February that performance of Wyle and Imagine One were compared. Wyle’s workforce was rated “good” and Imagine One’s workforce “acceptable.” Both companies were said to have “outstanding” understanding of the work, “good” management plans and overall technical prowess, and equally rated past performance. But Wyle’s proposed cost to perform the work was $88,416,993 and Imagine One’s was $62,299,384.

“The Department of Defense is looking for better deals,” said Steve Anderson, St. Mary’s County director of economic and community development. But, for St. Mary’s County, even the loss of 49 jobs seems like a major blow, Anderson said. The local economy is nearly fully dependent on defense.

Wyle isn’t the only company that has cut its workforce in St. Mary’s. Employees have been laid off, or have seen hours reduced from full time to part time, and their benefits eliminated. Trash is no longer being picked up from individual offices at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Employees have to bring their trash to central collection sites. Transportation services were canceled, meaning the loss of about six workers. Grass will be allowed to grow taller. Bathrooms won’t be cleaned as frequently. And, furloughs are still expected to hit federal employees, eliminating their pay for up to 14 days.

In many cases, several members of one family work for Patuxent River. Unions have been working to keep members informed about the changes, and offer support. And, Pax River has offered workshops to help anyone who works at the base plan for the financial hardship.

“I know there’s a definite sense of frustration right now,” Anderson said. St. Mary’s “avoided this fiscal cliff for a period of time,” making it through the recent recession with little to no impact on the local economy. Now, he said, “we’re feeling the effects of the drawdowns.”

nclark@somdnews.com