Sunday, May 22, 2005

Welders and other workers at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard have no apparent worries about job loss, but the shipyard probably will not gain jobs as anticipated from the closure of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire. The Hawaii shipyard employs more than 4,000 civilians.

Base-closure ax
fells 278 at Pearl

Civilians in finance and personnel
stand to suffer cutbacks

When the Base Realignment and Closure Commission report was released last week, Hawaii's congressional leaders thought the net effect here could result in small gain of one job.

A week later, however, a deeper reading of the report shows that 213 civilians at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service on Ford Island and another 65 civilians at Pearl Harbor's Human Resource Service Center will lose their jobs.

In addition, Ben Toyama, spokesman for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, believes that the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard will not see any significant gains in its 4,000-member civilian labor force.

Toyama was at a meeting in Washington, D.C., on May 13 with his counterparts from the 200-year-old Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire when the Pentagon recommended shuttering the 297-acre naval shipyard along with 32 others military installations.

In its report to the BRAC commission, the Pentagon said that the closure of the Portsmouth facility could result in Pearl Harbor getting 111 more shipyard workers.

However, Toyama said the choice jobs -- more than 1,000 of them in Portsmouth's engineering planning department -- will probably be transferred to Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia.

Over the past decade, Toyama added, Portsmouth and Pearl Harbor have concentrated on repairing and maintaining Los-Angeles-class nuclear attack submarines.

"Portsmouth has the engineering people who write repair specifications," Toyama said, "and we followed up with the doing the necessary repair work."

Both shipyards employ about 4,000 civilians, Toyama said. The Navy's two other ship repair facilities -- at Norfolk and Puget Sound in Washington -- specialize in repairing and maintaining aircraft carriers. Portsmouth, which straddles Maine and New Hampshire, has a payroll or more than $283 million.

Toyama said it was "ironic" that on May 11 Portsmouth shipyard workers were called to a meeting to be told that they had won the Navy's meritorious award for outperforming the three other repair installations.

"Then, on Friday (May 13), they get the news they will be closed," Toyama added.

Toyama also questioned the Pentagon's reasoning in closing the Human Resources Service Center at Pearl Harbor, where 65 civilian workers would lose their jobs over six years.

"It's kind of sad," added Toyama, that the Pentagon wants to have that center combined with similar operations either in San Diego or Washington to manage the careers of Navy civilian workers in Hawaii and the Pacific, since these workers will lose the benefit of being able to get timely personal help.

"It's difficult to resolve personnel issues online," Toyama said.

He cited a case at Pearl Harbor where a person who had been temporarily filling a position for three years was disqualified because of a clerical error in his employment record.

"When the announcement was made to fill the job," Toyama said. "His application was rejected because the Navy said he wasn't qualified.

"The unintended consequences of doing everything online," Toyama added, "is that there is no one we can talk to, and we don't think that is right."

Art Buck, staff director in Washington, D.C., for the Office of Human Resources, said he doesn't see any problems in civilian Navy workers being serviced from remote locations. "I am in Washington, D.C., and I am personally served by Silverdale."

The Human Resources Service Center in Silverdale, Wash., is one of three mainland operations the Pentagon recommended Friday to take over Hawaii's operations. The other two are North Island Naval Air Station and Miramar Marine Corps Air Station -- both near San Diego.

Buck said that his office -- which has operations in Europe and seven areas on the mainland and in Hawaii, has shrunk to where it has about half the work force that it had in 1989.

He estimated that about 1,300 to 1,400 civilians handle benefits and promotion issues for civilians employed by the Navy.

The Hawaii workers at both the Ford Island Defense Accounting and Finance Services and the Human Resource Service Center at Pearl Harbor will be offered jobs at the new mainland sites, the Navy said.

Hawaii Army Reserve officials said the proposed closure of its armory in Hilo was long anticipated and the state already had funds to begin the design of a $59 million expansion of the Keakaha Military Reservation near the Hilo Airport.

"More than $4 million have already appropriated by the federal government," said Maj. Chuck Anthony, Hawaii National Guard spokesman, and another $300,000 was approved by lawmakers this session to begin designing the multi-use facility that not only includes space for the Army Reserve and Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers, but also an expanded post exchange and commissary and work space for the State Office of Veterans Affair. The four buildings also will house a Marine Corps unit.

The BRAC commission has until Sept. 8 to submit its recommendations to President Bush. The president then has two weeks to accept or reject this list in its entirety if the Pentagon's recommendations are upheld by BRAC. There have been four base-closing rounds in the past with previous commissions endorsing 85 percent of the recommendations. Closures are intended to save $14.6 billion, but will take down 29,000 jobs.

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