Northrop Grumman to cut 500 jobs, most in Baltimore area

Defense contractor says it will try buyouts before layoffs

March 02, 2011|By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. said Wednesday that it will cut 500 jobs at a Linthicum-based division, blaming a drop in business caused by "delays and uncertainty" in both domestic and international contracts.

The company said the "vast majority" of the cuts to the Electronic Systems sector would hit the division's Baltimore-area locations, with the rest spread among its other facilities in Illinois, Virginia, Connecticut, Florida and Alabama. Northrop Grumman is offering a buyout to employees but will conduct layoffs by the end of May if too few leave voluntarily, said spokesman Jack Martin Jr.

"This work force reduction action is regrettable, but unavoidable," Martin said by e-mail. "It is imperative that the company balance the work force to the business base that supports it to ensure the sector's continued competitiveness."

The Electronic Systems sector employs about 8,300 in the Baltimore region, primarily in Linthicum with smaller outposts in Annapolis, Sykesville and Elkridge. Close to 150 workers were laid off from the Anne Arundel County locations last June, Martin said.

Federal contractors benefited from the run-up in spending that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and 2008 financial crisis. Now the pinch is on as the government tries to rein in the deficit — a problem for Maryland, which overflows with contractors.

The Republican-led House of Representatives wants to cut $61 billion from the federal budget this fiscal year. Even before, though, contractors could see reductions were on the way. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pledged last summer to reduce spending on "service support" contracts by 10 percent a year over three years.

Contracting has "been a buffer up to this point," but that's changing, said Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, a Republican.

"Now we're in line to face some of those same cuts that others in the private sector have faced," he said Wednesday.

The county's work force development staff will help Northrop Grumman workers look for new jobs or get retraining help, Leopold said. He expressed hope that the new cyber command at Fort Meade would have jobs for displaced Northrop Grumman employees.

BRAC, the military base realignment and closure effort, is also sending jobs to Fort Meade. Many are already filled, however, because a large number of the relocating workers were based in Northern Virginia and can commute.

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