- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A new fiscal year begins in less than a month for federal defense workers at Patuxent River Naval Air Station and, most likely, so will another stint of uncertainty about furloughs and layoffs.
Frank Kendall, a Navy undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, visited Pax River on Sept. 3 and said defense leaders are prepared to begin additional sequestration-related changes in October. He called the odds of avoiding job loss “not so good,” according to a summary of the event published on defense.gov.
Sequestration, which Congress allowed to go into effect this spring, requires $52 billion be cut from the upcoming 2014 defense budget.
“Kendall presented an honest and realistic perspective of the current budgetary situation to an audience of approximately 600,” NAVAIR spokeswoman Amy Behrman said. Kendall also talked about a better buying power initiative, she said. “It was a very productive exchange and well received by the NAVAIR workforce.”
Any layoffs, which the Navy calls RIF — or reduction in force— would take place after officials have a better idea of next year’s funding. “No decisions have been made regarding personnel actions at this time,” Behrman explained, adding that in the meeting, Kendall said defense leaders are researching alternatives to avoid a RIF and more furloughs.
This fiscal year, federal workers at Pax River lost 20 percent of their pay for six weeks. During that time, the air station shut down most operations, including rounds of flight tests, on Fridays. Some contractors lost jobs in the shuffle and county businesses said they saw reductions in customer spending.
And there’s no clear end in sight.
Capt. Heidi Fleming, executive officer at Pax River, said a RIF was launched this fiscal year within the Commander, Naval Installations Command, a part of the Navy that oversees some of Pax River’s operations. Changes associated with the RIF would be scheduled to be complete in the next fiscal year, Fleming said in an email. So far, no federal workers have been laid off, according to her office.
“Eliminating jobs is a last resort in an austere fiscal environment, but we must live within budget given,” Fleming said. The number of people impacted by the RIF will be determined once it is clear who will take voluntary separation incentives or early retirement and which employees can be placed in other vacancies.
But this approach would allow the base to continue essential work, such as air and port operations and fleet and family support programs.
“We have faced unprecedented fiscal uncertainty this year and it looks like that may continue in the coming year,” Fleming said. However, she said, the Department of the Navy has taken and continues to take steps to address current and projected budget reductions.
“Despite these uncertainties,” Fleming said, “we all continue to perform our jobs as always because the fleet depends on all of us; our first duty is to support them.”