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Shuster says missile workers will keep jobs

June 17, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - More than 900 federal workers involved in missile maintenance at Letterkenny Army Depot will stay put, U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., said Wednesday.

Shuster's office said the Army Materiel Command will recommend the missile workload remain at the depot. If the recommendation is approved by the Department of the Army, it will uphold a decision made by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 1995.

"I'm pretty happy right now. It's been a long, hard three years for the people here," said Debbie Witherspoon, president of Local 1442 of the National Federation of Federal Employees. The union represents about 800 white-collar workers at the depot and its tenant facilities, about 450 of them in missile work.

She said those employees faced uncertainty because the Army was studying options that could have moved the work to Tobyhanna Army Depot in Scranton, Pa., or sent it to private contractors.

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According to Shuster, Gen. Johnnie Wilson, commander of the Army Materiel Command, briefed him on the decision Wednesday.

Last August, Lt. Gen. Dennis Benchoff, deputy commander of the Army Materiel Command, requested the Army's Cost and Economic Analysis Center study five options for the future of tactical missile maintenance, Shuster said.

"By far the most serious of the options, Option III, would have transferred all the tactical missile depot maintenance to Tobyhanna," said a press release from Shuster's office. Instead, the Army chose to maintain the status quo.

"Our attorneys also filed a complaint with Gen. Wilson about three weeks ago," Witherspoon said. The union complaint alleged three of the options violated the Base Realignment and Closure Commission law.

Under BRAC '95, work on guidance and control systems would be transferred to Tobyhanna. That would move about 120 jobs, Shuster's office said.

"I have formally asked the Army to re-examine the costs of moving this work to Tobyhanna, and if it is determined that it is more economically feasible to keep the work at Letterkenny, they should pursue actions to do so," said in the release. "The Army agreed with this proposal."

Depot spokesman Alan Loessy said the depot services 17 tactical missile systems from all the armed services.

Despite the announcement, Letterkenny is scheduled to lose hundreds of jobs over the next year.

Witherspoon said the Defense Logistics Agency, which had about 450 workers in 1995, has about 130 positions now. The agency is slated to close Sept. 30 and she said only 39 people have gotten other job offers at the depot.

By July 1999, the artillery maintenance mission at the depot is scheduled to transfer to Anniston Army Depot in Alabama, Witherspoon said

Loessy said the depot and its tenants employ about 2,500 people, down from more than 5,000 in 1989.

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