Md. would lose nearly 800 jobs under proposal

April 13, 1991|By Thom Loverro Reporters Robert A. Erlandson, Michael J. Clark and Tom Bowman of The Sun's Metropolitan staff contributed to this report.

Maryland stands to lose nearly 800 Defense Department jobs if Defense Secretary Dick Cheney gets approval for his proposal to close and realign military installations across the country.

Only one local installation was targeted for closing -- the Naval Electronics Systems Engineering Activity in St. Inigoes, a small town in the southernmost portion of St. Mary's County.

Five others would lose jobs to realignment -- the Naval Surface Warfare Center Detachment in White Oak, the David Taylor Research Center Detachment in Annapolis, the Naval Ordnance Station in Indian Head, Fort Detrick in Frederick and Harry Diamond Laboratories in Adelphi.

But other facilities, such as Aberdeen Proving Ground, Patuxent River Naval Air Test Center in Lexington Park, Fort Ritchie in Cascade and the David Taylor Center in Carderock, stand to gain workers.

Overall, the state would lose 781 jobs, Pentagon figures show.

Mr. Cheney's plan includes the closing of 31 major U.S. military bases across the country.

Representative Beverly B. Byron, D-Md.-6th, said Maryland did not fare badly. California, for instance, would lose 26,869 military and civilian jobs.

"Maryland has been, in my estimation, very fortunate that the base closures and realignments haven't been too severe," Mrs. Byron said.

But U.S. Representative Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, reacted angrily to the announcement. "If we have to, we'll fight the whole thing," said Mr. McMillen, who was upset that the Taylor Research Center in Annapolis was on the list.

He argued that such research-and-development labs should not have been added to the base closure list. They were to have been considered separately by an advisory commission, which was to have made a report on lab consolidation and closure in the fall, he said.

The Maryland congressional delegation is scheduled to meet next week about the impact of the plans on the state.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., vowed to fight to keep all the jobs in Maryland. She said of the announcement, "It is confusing about the impact on individual employees and on labs in Maryland."

Confusion was the order of the day throughout Defense Department installations across the state yesterday, as officials and employees tried to figure out if and where they would be working.

Although Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st, said the Pentagon's plan to close and consolidate military bases means a net gain of 300 jobs for Southern Maryland over the next six years, people in the area aren't sure, and many feared the worst.

Jerry Denhartog, 40, who bought the St. Inigoes General Store nine years ago, took a darker view, that he could lose his heavily mortgaged store. Half of most days' business is the local base's lunch crowd, he said.

He is at least five years from paying off, so if the base closes and all that business is lost, "I might as well blow my brains out," Mr. Denhartog said.

According to Pentagon figures, 1,018 civilian jobs and 37 military slots will be eliminated -- about half the complement at St. Inigoes -- and the rest will be transferred to a larger facility at Portsmouth, Va.

According to Congressman Gilchrest, 1,300 engineering personnel from the Naval Air Propulsion Center in Trenton, N.J., and the Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, Pa., will be moving to the huge Patuxent River naval base at Lexington Park.

Others in the state who have seen such announcements come and go with little or no action reacted calmly, even cynically, to the Pentagon's proposal.

At the Taylor Research Center, where 548 civilian jobs would be eliminated or moved to Carderock or Philadelphia, the announcement "spread like wildfire," said Russell Glantz, an 32-year-old electrician at the lab.

Mr. Glantz, of Glen Burnie, said he would believe the cutbacks when "they actually send us a letter" indicating his job status.

His wife Susan, 34, who works in personnel, said she was "initially upset, but now I don't believe it until someone says my job is gone.

"I am not concerned at this point," she said.

At the Naval Surface Warfare Center in White Oak, which stands to lose about 1,700 jobs, reaction was also muted. George Hamlin, president of the White Oak Employees' Association at the center, was not disturbed.

"I've been hearing rumors for 20 years now," he said.

John Greene, president of Local 1 of the American Federation of Government Employees at White Oak, said he didn't believe people would actually lose their jobs, although they may have to move to keep them.

"My understanding is that people will have jobs offered to them of some sort," he said.

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