February 04. 2013 10:41PM

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard contemplates cuts

Union Leader Correspondent

KITTERY, Maine - A civilian hiring freeze remains in effect until March 2 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, but things could get worse if sequestration is triggered in March.

Public Affairs Officer Gary Hildreth said Monday there is only one temporary employee at the shipyard, and that employee will be released Feb. 15 if the budget situation is not resolved per an order from Naval Sea Systems Command to release all temporary personnel.

"The Navy hopes these layoffs are temporary and may be reversed if Congress passes a Fiscal 2013 Defense Appropriations Bill or grants Navy permission to reprogram funds from investment accounts to operations and maintenance accounts," Hildreth said.

In total, 1,121 temporary employees across the Navy will lose their jobs, at least temporarily, including 34 employees at the nation's four Naval shipyards.

The cuts will save about $30 million, according to Navy spokeswoman Lt. Courtney Hillson.

If sequestration goes forward, about $294 million worth of repairs for the USS Miami will be deferred, according to the Navy. The submarine is currently under repair after a shipyard employee set two fires aboard last spring.

Any employee furloughs are tied to sequestration. While no decision has been made yet on furloughing civilian personnel, the national plan under discussion at the Department of Defense level would be one day per week for 22 weeks.

According to numbers provided by the Navy, a 22-day furlough of most civilians would save about $448 million.

Hildreth said at this time, ongoing modernization projects are not affected because they are already funded.

PNSY has stopped all non-mission essential travel and professional training, including attendance at conferences and seminars per a directive from the Chief of Naval Operations, Jonathan W. Greenert, sent on Jan. 25.

Overtime work has also been reduced to focus only on "critical path work."

On Monday, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Republican Susan Collins of Maine announced that they have called for a "balanced, bipartisan deficit reduction solution that protects jobs and national security interests."

The senators said Congress' inaction could enact nearly $1.2 trillion in defense and non-defense spending within the federal budget.

"This would have severe ramifications for many critical defense facilities, including our own Portsmouth Naval Shipyard," the senators said.

Overall, the commander of Navy Installations Command has been directed to reduce base operating support by 10 percent and facilities sustainment expenditures by 50 percent.

In the event sequestration is triggered in March, the Navy will face an additional $4 billion reduction for operations and maintenance in FY13.