During a recent hearing in Washington D.C., Gen. Raymond Odierno, chief of staff for the U.S. Army, said the U.S. Army plans to cancel 2013 third- and fourth-quarter maintenance work at all depots, including Anniston’s. Massive defense cuts are also scheduled to begin March 1 if Congress does not come up with an alternate budget plan, possibly resulting in the loss of 371 temporary employees at the depot.
However, depot officials and military experts expect funding already appropriated for 2013 to keep the depot’s 2,884 permanent workers busy through the rest of the fiscal year and prevent furloughs or layoffs for them.
Odierno said the cancellations were planned but not finalized during the hearing.
“According to the Gen. Odierno’s testimony, the Army is planning to cancel third- and fourth-quarter depot maintenance,” said Lira Frye, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Materiel Command, which makes decisions regarding maintenance work at the depot.
Also during the hearing, Odierno said approximately $294 million in funded carryover from 2012 was appropriated and is expected to be spent at the depot this year. Combined with more than $300 million appropriated for 2013, the funding is expected to provide enough work at the depot through the end of the current fiscal year.
“That should give them enough to operate through the fiscal year, if they also release the temporary workers as scheduled,” said Nathan Hill, military liason for the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce.
Hill said the funding should keep the depot operating even if the Army cancels third- and fourth-quarter maintenance work there this year. Most of the work at the depot involves maintenance or repair and refurbishing work for military vehicles and weapons that are not being sent back into the field.
“If they cancel the third and fourth quarter, that means they just won’t get their third- and fourth-quarter funding,” Hill said. “I think they can probably manage — if they can handle their own workload, they can probably operate without furloughs.”
Clester Burdell, spokeswoman for the depot, agreed that depot officials expected current 2013 funding to be sufficient for the year and prevent employee furloughs.
“That is what we are hopeful for,” Burdell said. “Furloughs are a very last option.”
Col. Brent Bolander, commander of the depot, has said furloughs are a last resort that are currently not planned and that the March 1 cuts will likely mean layoffs of the depot’s 371 temporary employees. Furloughs were one of the options the Army presented last month to depots and bases as a way to save money this year.
Frye, however, could not provide any certainty that the depot would survive the third- and fourth-quarter cancellations unscathed, despite the carryover funding from 2012.
“It’s possible the carryover could cover some of the workload,” Frye said. “We’re still working through how that will impact the individual product lines and centers.”
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, who is chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee on the Army Services Committee, who was at the Odierno hearing, sent a letter Thursday to John McHugh, secretary of the Army, to gain more details about the current funding for the depot and how the planned third- and fourth- quarter cancellations will impact its employees.
“Our national defense strategy is shifting, but the work done by our men and women at the depot serves an absolutely critical mission,” Rogers said in a Friday press release. “After learning the amount of workload at the depot that is already paid for, it just made sense to ask Secretary McHugh to clarify what this means for the workforce, both permanent and temporary, so the depot can continue to fund its operations in support of our warfighters.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.