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Last updated: March 12. 2013 3:36PM - 6483 Views
By ANDREW M. SEDER



The sign at the main gate of theTobyhanna Army Depot.
The sign at the main gate of theTobyhanna Army Depot.
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TOBYHANNA —The Tobyhanna Army Depot, the region’s largest employer, has notified a private contractor that it may not need up to 418 of its workers by the end of April. The job losses come on top of recent retirements of 150 employees and news that all employees will be furloughed for 22 days between April 1 and Sept. 30.


Faced with decreasing funding for workload, the depot has notified URS Federal Support Services Inc., of Oklahoma City, Okla., that it may no longer require up to 418 industrial trade and electronics workers and related support functions.


The phased reduction will begin Friday and would continue through the end of April.


“We have assessed our workload thoroughly, and we do not have funding or sufficient work to justify retention of these personnel at this time. These reductions are always difficult, but we must be prudent stewards of our resources to maximize the efficient support we deliver to the men and women of our Armed Forces,” said depot commander Col. Gerhard P.R. Schröter.


The first reduction of 95 contract workers will take place Friday. This will include industrial trade workers, electronics workers and employees of URS Federal Support Services with other skills. The second phase of up to 216 personnel would take place on April 15. The last phase would take place April 30, when 107 contract workers would be released.


The latest news comes after the $309 million in lost funding brought on by the federal government’s sequestration, the across-the-board mandatory decreases to the federal budget. The depot already announced it would deal with the scale-back by cutting back on travel and other discretionary expenses, offering the voluntary early retirement and voluntary separation incentive pay that 150 employees accepted March 1 and the furloughs of its 3,600 Department of the Army civilian employees.


According to a release issued by the depot Monday, the facility contracted over the past several years to support increased depot workload tied to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But as those operations have ended or begun to wind down, the increased workload seen in recent years has begun levelling off. The rise and fall of workload is a key reason Tobyhanna has used contracted workers.


The use of contract personnel enables the depot to quickly adjust to fluctuations in workload, ensuring the depot operates efficiently and productively. The end of operations in Iraq and the depot’s increased completion of equipment repairs in recent years have contributed to the decreased workload projections this year.


Among the impacts of sequestration is no Army funding for depot maintenance in the third and fourth quarter (April 1-Sept. 30) of this fiscal year, which accelerates the decline of workload at Tobyhanna.


About 700 contract personnel, including 418 URS employees, work at Tobyhanna. The depot also employs more than 3,600 Department of the Army civilian employees to perform its worldwide mission of maintaining communications-electronics systems for the Armed Forces. No Army civilian employees are affected by this reduction. The Monroe County installation has seen its workforce drop below 5,000 this year, but it still remains the largest employer in the region.


U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, previously issued a statement on the sequestration’s impact on Tobyhanna, which is in his district. He said defense spending should be cut but he didn’t agree with this action.


“We can all agree that, as we transition to a peace-time military, spending will have to decrease. However, the severity and the suddenness of these cuts will impair our war fighters’ ability to carry out their missions,” Cartwright said.


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