Base realignment plan would cut 18,000 civilian jobs

More than 18,000 Defense Department civilians will see their jobs eliminated or contracted out as part of the Pentagon's recommendations for closing and realigning military bases.

"Our current arrangements, designed for the Cold War, must give way to the new demands of the war against extremism and other threats of the 21st century," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a prepared statement Friday.

The Pentagon wants to close 33 major bases, realign 22 more and make hundreds of other changes at smaller bases. Those recommendations will be reviewed by an the independent Base Realignment and Closure Commission this summer, which will then prepare a final list for President Bush by Sept. 8. The president has until Sept. 23 to accept or reject the list before sending it to Congress, which has 45 legislative days to reject it or the recommendations become law.

The Defense Department's moves will affect 133,769 military jobs and 84,801 civilian positions at hundreds of installations nationwide. Of those jobs, 122,987 military and 66,578 civilian jobs will move to other bases, while 10,722 military jobs and 18,223 civilian jobs will be eliminated or turned over to private contractors. The Pentagon estimates its base closing recommendations will require hiring 2,818 additional contractors.

Like past base closing rounds, the Defense Department will offer civilian employees at affected bases a variety of career options, among them moving to a new base, being placed on a priority list for other jobs in the area, and incentives to take early retirement. Defense has established a Web site that details assistance offered to its displaced civilians.

The largest relocation of civilian jobs will occur in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, where thousands of Defense civilians work in leased office space. Nearly 23,000 Defense jobs, including 15,754 civilian positions, will move to more secure space at military installations, including thousands to nearby military bases, among them Fort Belvoir, Va. and Fort Meade, Md. Fort Belvoir stands to gain 5,729 civilian jobs and Fort Meade will add 2,915 civilians.

A recent George Mason University survey found that more than 40,000 Defense workers are in leased space that does not meet homeland security requirements. Rumsfeld said moving them to to military bases would guarantee those security standards are met.

Some civilians moving to Fort Belvoir will take spots now occupied by 816 civilian and 75 military personnel, who make up Army Materiel Command headquarters. The command is being relocated to Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service, a largely civilian defense agency that processes employee payroll and payments to contractors, will be relocated and consolidated from more than 20 locations into three large facilites.

Military industrial facilites also will see major changes under the Pentagon's plan. Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Texas, with 2,491 civilians, will be closed and much of that work will go to other depot facilities, including Anniston Army Depot, Ala., and Letterkenny Army Depot, Pa.

Also, the Navy will close Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, where 4,032 civilians overhaul submarines, and move most of that work to its three remaining shipyards in Virginia, Hawaii and Washington.

Other major closings and realignments for civilians include:

  • Closing the Army's Communications and Electronics Command at Fort Monmouth, N.J. (4,652 civilians)
  • Closing Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va. (1,948 civilians)
  • Closing the Army's Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington and building a joint health care facility in Bethesda, Md. (2,357 civilians)
  • Closing Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas (1,268 civilians)
The states losing the most civilian jobs are: Virginia (8,843), Maine (4,139), New Jersey (3,713) and Texas (3,175). Those gaining the most civilian jobs are: Maryland (9,012), Indiana (2,641), Alabama (2,018) and Kentucky (1,482).
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