Lewis-McChord civilian workers face layoffs

TACOMA — Dozens of civilian workers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord could be laid off in January as result of defense cutbacks.

A warning letter was sent Friday to the 1,500 workers in the base’s Installation Management Command. That letter said the 102-person reduction-in-force was a worst-case scenario, the Tacoma News Tribune reported Tuesday.

The reductions are a result of expenditure limits mandated by the federal Budget Control Act of 2011. Joint Base Lewis-McChord is one of a handful of defense installations targeted for civilian workforce reductions.

While more than 100 jobs are in jeopardy, far fewer may be laid off, base spokesman Joe Piek said.

Installation commanders are studying how to rebalance the civilian workforce at the base south of Tacoma to reflect the changing needs of the Army and Air Force in a post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan environment, he added.

The Defense Department has set a deadline of Jan. 15 to accomplish the layoffs, but officials at the base have requested a 90-day extension of that deadline to allow more time to study how best to accomplish the job reductions, Piek said.

If the deadline isn’t extended, layoff warning letters will be sent to specific individuals beginning in October. If the extension is granted, those warning letters wouldn’t be sent until January for layoffs happening by April 15.

Lewis-McChord has about 15,000 civilian workers, Piek said.

As the Army and Air Force reduce their numbers in the wake of withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of service members assigned to the base could shrink by as many as 16,000 from its present 42,000, according to a study of the effect of the likely reductions in the fighting force nationwide.

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