The Air Force announced Thursday that it will cut 832 civilian jobs at Hill Air Force Base as part of an 11,700-job reduction at bases in 36 states and the District of Columbia.
The Air Force, whose cuts will be completed by next September, isn't the only one cutting jobs. The Army also announced it will cut 45,000 military and 644 civilian jobs.The Air Force reduction at Hill is the fifth-largest, by state, behind Texas, California, Ohio and Oklahoma.
It may not be as bad as it sounds. The announcement envisions a worst-case scenario and actual cuts may be less, says an aide to Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah.
Steve Petersen, legislative director for Hansen, who is a senior member of the House National Security Committee (formerly Armed Services), said the announcement of expected job cuts by the Air Force is almost an annual drill to warn installations how much they will have to cut by the end of the fiscal year if workloads and missions do not change.
"They always start with the worst-case scenario and then work backward, rather than trying to be optimistic and then having to make adjustments to cut deeper," he said.
Lt. Col. Frank Urban, a Hill spokesman, said many of the losses will be taken up by early retirement, reassignment and incentives. To reduce the impact of the anticipated cuts, Hill has offered its personnel up to $25,000 to resign or retire early, and 579 have expressed interest in the severance package so far.
"We knew it was coming," he said. "Those 832 represent spaces, not faces. The actual number losing their jobs will be much less."
In the last round of reductions, the Air Force announced 1,500 jobs to be cut from Hill last January. The number of people who ultimately lost their jobs in October, however, totaled under 300.
A workload increase would also reduce the number of jobs lost, Urban said, though workers shouldn't hold their breath that that will happen.
"The numbers assume the Navy won't exercise its option on the F-18 (jet fighter) overhaul contract," Peterson said. "If the Navy exercises its option, I'm not sure how many jobs would be affected, but (the number of cuts) would be significantly less."
Petersen said it would make economic sense for the Navy to choose to repair and upgrade its F-18 fighters at Hill but agreed with Urban that military and congressional politics may work against it.
"Hill can overhaul an F-18 for $500,000 less than the Navy can do it at its own depots," Petersen said, but he added that some Navy officials - and members of Congress representing areas around Navy depots - worry that shifting such work to the Air Force could lead to the closure of some Navy depots.
Hill, which includes an air logistics center, currently employs 22,000 workers, half of those civilians. Other logistics centers in California, Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia are reducing their force by similar numbers, from 337 at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento to 1,007 at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio.
Hill is in a battle for survival with the other four logistics centers not only with regard to job cuts but in the 1995 round of base closures.
Petersen said the projected cuts are not too surprising because workloads - both at Hill and other similar bases nationwide - have been dwindling.
"Until we pump more money into readiness, this will happen. Once we get more money in the pipeline, it will take a year or so to see much of a difference," he said.
Hansen is considering becoming a chairman of a National Security subcommittee, and depending on what choices are available because of seniority, a chance exists he could oversee readiness issues.