Defense cuts to hit five labs Losses: 3,000 jobs. Gains: 3,200 jobs.

July 01, 1991|By Stacey Evers | Stacey Evers,States News Service Monica Norton contributed to this story.

WASHINGTON -- The David Taylor Naval Research Center in Annapolis is expected to lose 553 of its 973 jobs under Navy laboratory cutbacks approved by the national Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission.

The commission voted on a wide variety of military base and laboratory closings and realignments yesterday, including cutbacks at five Maryland laboratories.

Although the precise numbers nationwide are not available, Maryland installations will lose about 3,000 positions but pick up almost 3,200 new jobs as the result of transfers and realignments.

For example, the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County will lose 109 jobs but add approximately 290. But the Annapolis facility will be reduced to about a third of its current size.

"This is unfortunate for our local economy," Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall said last night. He noted that the county has been hit hard by defense cutbacks, including the layoff of 1,200 workers at the Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group in Linthicum in February.

"We did everything. I tried to do the very best I could to save as many jobs as possible. When we went to the [base-closing] committee, we went hoping that they had not made up their minds yet."

He said he hopes that employees whose jobs are eliminated at the Annapolis facility will be able to find jobs at other military research labs.

Many of the positions at the Taylor facility in Annapolis will be assigned to other laboratories, including 336 to the David Taylor Research Center in the Washington suburb of Carderock and 100 to a similar facility in Philadelphia.

Jim Scott, a spokesman for the Annapolis center, said many Annapolis workers will be offered jobs at the other facilities, but he expects only 10 or 20 percent to accept them and move.

Most of the closings and realignments affect installations in the Washington suburbs and Southern Maryland.

Partially rejecting a Defense Department recommendation, the commission voted not to close the Naval Electronics Systems Engineering Activity in St. Mary's County.

But it endorsed Pentagon suggestions to reduce the size of five Maryland military laboratories by a total of 3,000 personnel.

The panel also supported Army plans to create a laboratory headquarters at Adelphi as well as Navy recommendations to put a lab center at the Patuxent River Naval Air Test Center in Lexington Park. These changes could bring in at least 3,290 new positions.

The seven-member commission threw a curveball, however, stipulating that the changes not go into effect until Jan. 1, 1992, after a Defense Department advisory lab panel has time to examine the suggestions.

Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., said late yesterday that he is generally pleased with the commission's decision, saying the panel "recognized the important role that Maryland plays in a strong national defense."

But he said he is disappointed in their recommendation to downsize other "important Naval research facilities" and will urge the Bush administration to "take full advantage" of the lab advisory panel's report before making any changes at these sites. The advisory report is due at the end of September.

President Bush, who today received the commission's list of bases to be closed and consolidated, has 15 days to accept it or reject it without making any changes. If he rejects it, the commission has 30 days to re-evaluate the list.

If Bush accepts the list, it goes to Congress for approval. The legislature has 45 days to accept or reject it, but can make no changes. If Congress rejects the list, no closures will be made until a new commission in 1993 takes a fresh look at the nation's military bases.

Commission member William Ball offered the amendment that saved, at least temporarily, about 1,055 jobs at NESEA, which is located in the town of St. Inigoes. The commission unanimously passed Ball's motion, which spared all Department of Defense engineering centers slated for closure.

Ball said he wanted the Navy to find a better way to streamline its lab system, saying the functions of engineering centers differ from research and development facilities.

Other Navy sites didn't fare so well in this round of military cuts. Besides the cutback at the David Taylor Research Center in Annapolis, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Detachment in White Oak stands to lose 1,706 positions and the Naval Ordnance Station in Indian Head will lose 32 jobs.

Also, the payroll at the Army's Fort Detrick in Frederick will be reduced by 39 positions.

Although the Army's Harry Diamond Laboratories in Adelphi will lose 583 jobs and Aberdeen Proving Ground will lose 109 posts, the two sites are scheduled to gain about 460 and 295 positions respectively as part of their new roles as the flagship research and development center, known as Combat Material Research Lab, and its main supporting lab.

With these changes, the Army estimates that it can save $245.7 million in one-time costs between 1992 and 1997 as well as $51.4 million in annual costs.

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