The Pentagon's decision to cancel the Navy's A-12 Stealth program could cost 1,200 workers their jobs at the
Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group in Linthicum.
Richard A. Linder, president of the Electronic Systems Group, sent a letter to employees yesterday saying the prime contractors on the project have ordered Westinghouse to stop work on radar and infared systems for the A-12 attack plane.
"We are currently assessing the impact on the Electronic Systems Group of the stop-work order," Linder said. "If this stop-work order is converted to a contract termination, initial data indicate that as many as 1,200 jobs may have to be eliminated. Every possibility that could minimize a work-force reduction is being considered."
It could not be learned immediately when the project's prime contractors would give the termination notice to Westinghouse.
Westinghouse spokesman Jack Martin said the company does not yet know what kinds of jobs might be eliminated. He said Westinghouse is looking to move workers into other areas at the plant.
With about 16,000 workers in Maryland, Westinghouse is the state's largest private employer. In recent years, the company has avoided layoffs by scaling back its work force through
attrition. The last layoffs were in 1985 when 500 workers lost their jobs, Martin said.
"We're all disappointed because the cancellation of the A-12 program was not expected," Martin said.
Defense Secretary Richard Cheney announced Monday that the Defense Department was canceling its $57 billion contract with General Dynamics Corp. and McDonnell Douglas Corp. for the aircraft because its builders had so badly mismanaged the program that they could never meet the government's contract terms. The program employs 10,000 workers in 42 states.
McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics, both of which denied they had defaulted on their contracts, said they would begin immediately laying off as many as 9,000 workers on the project, mostly at their plants in St. Louis; Fort Worth, Texas; and Tulsa, Okla. The companies had worked for three years developing the A-12.
Another Maryland company will be adversely affected by the decision to cancel the contract. The Amecom division of Litton Systems Inc. in College Park had been selected to develop and (( test electronic equipment that would have been used on the A-12 to identify electronic signals in the air and on the ground.
John George, manager of public relations at the plant, said it is too early for Amecom to know the impact the cancellation will have on its 1,000-person work force. Saying that much of the A-12 program is classified, he would not reveal the number of workers involved in the project or the contract's exact value. He would say only that the contract was "a multimillion-dollar" endeavor.
Ironically, the threat of war might send the sophisticated aircraft project to its death without a fight. Congress could put the program back into the defense budget, but now lawmakers' attention is focused on Operation Desert Shield.
Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, said Congress is so involved in debating the Middle East crisis that leaders have had little time to lobby for the revival of the project.
A spokesman for Thomas McMillen, D-4th, said the congressman met yesterday in Washington with officials from Westinghouse, whose main plant is in McMillen's district.
After the officials briefed McMillen on Linder's letter, the spokesman said, McMillen told them he hopes the Navy will be able to find a use for the radar system in another aircraft.
"Westinghouse has a very good system that it provided the U.S. Navy for the A-12 and has hopefully developed a successful technology," the spokesman said. "You have at least a piece of the program that works, and we hope that it would be integrated in whatever system the Navy chooses to pursue."