Upcoming job cuts at Utah military bases should be so small they can all be handled through attrition - simply not replacing people who retire or quit - rather than by layoffs.
That's what Utah's members of Congress told a group of city officials from Utah who were in Washington Tuesday for a convention of the National League of Cities.However, the delegation acknowledges that civilian Utah defense industries - such as missile manufacturers - will likely have to face layoffs.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Hill Air Force Base, Tooele Army Depot, Defense Depot Ogden and Dugway Proving Ground will "lose jobs, but by attrition rather than throwing people out of work."
All members of the delegation, or aides they sent in their place, agreed with Hatch's prediction - even though Air Force officials, for example, have predicted up to a quarter of the work force at Hill (the state's single largest employer)could be laid off over the next several years.
Bill Simmons, an aide to Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, said, "We feel fortunate that not one of our bases has been closed - as have many major ones in districts of powerful representatives. As we scale down, we will lose jobs but will try to keep it to a minimum."
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, added, "The fact they are coming through attrition is good planning."
Still, South Ogden Mayor Brent Frost said he worried that the recent transfer of some work from Defense Depot Ogden to California is a bad omen and questioned if local officials and the delegation could have done more to prevent it.
Hatch said the delegation did all possible - such as lobbying the Pentagon - but Utah will have some such cuts with the rest of the nation and that it should be satisfied that civilian job cuts apparently can be handled through attrition.
But Provo City Councilman James Dailey, who works at missile-maker Hercules, said that company eliminated 300 jobs last week and could cover only 191 of them through attrition.
Hatch said, "We say attrition can handle it, we're just talking about government-run military bases - not other defense industries." Hatch said he felt if defense cuts go much beyond the $50 billion President Bush has proposed, they could devastate Utah defense industries.
"I, (Sen.) Jake (Garn, R-Utah) and Jim Hansen think $50 billion is already too much and would like to see it lower. But the Democrats want to double it to $100 billion," Hatch said.
But Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, said, "It's not just bad Democrats as some would have you believe. This is not a partisan issue," saying many Republicans are also fighting over a possible "peace dividend" from savings in defense spending at the end of the Cold War.