BAE Systems warns it may lay off 1,625 workers at Norfolk shipyard if defense budget doesn’t pass

Posted at 11:16 AM, Feb 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-20 23:51:26-05

Norfolk, Va. - BAE Systems Ship Repair has warned 1,625 shipyard workers in Norfolk they could be laid off in 60 days if a defense budget is not passed.

The company was required to issue the notices of possible layoffs under the WARN act, and says up to 3,500 workers across the country may be cut.

Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement on the notices.

“I feel great sympathy for the 1600 shipyard workers and their families receiving WARN notices today. As I learned from my visit with workers in Newport News yesterday, delayed ship repairs over budget uncertainty will have a devastating ripple effect on the Hampton Roads economy and an immediate impact on our readiness. As the Pentagon notifies DOD civilians about potential furloughs, I'm still not willing to accept that the sequester has to happen. All that's required is a willingness for leaders of both parties to take responsibility for this self-inflicted crisis and find a reasonable compromise."

BAE has been told by the Navy that the service will cancel or defer work on 13 ships if Congress can't agree on a budget for this year. The Navy also faces additional steep cuts if automatic forced spending cuts known as 'sequestration' kick in at the end of the month.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also warned Congress that the Pentagon will be forced to furlough workers soon in this announcement:

"To All Department of Defense Personnel:

"For more than a year and a half, the president, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I have repeatedly voiced our deep concerns over the half a trillion dollars in automatic across-the-board cuts that would be imposed under sequestration and the severe damage that would do both to this department and to our national defense.

"The administration continues to work with Congress to reach agreement on a balanced deficit reduction plan to avoid these cuts. Meanwhile, because another trigger for sequestration is approaching on March 1, the department's leadership has begun extensive planning on how to implement the required spending reductions. Those cuts will be magnified because the department has been forced to operate under a six-month continuing resolution that has already compelled us to take steps to reduce spending.

"In the event of sequestration we will do everything we can to be able to continue to perform our core mission of providing for the security of the United States, but there is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon this department, and their scale, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force.

"I have also been deeply concerned about the potential direct impact of sequestration on you and your families. We are doing everything possible to limit the worst effects on DoD personnel -- but I regret that our flexibility within the law is extremely limited. The president has used his legal authority to exempt military personnel funding from sequestration, but we have no legal authority to exempt civilian personnel funding from reductions. As a result, should sequestration occur and continue for a substantial period, DoD will be forced to place the vast majority of its civilian workforce on administrative furlough.

"Today, I notified Congress that furloughs could occur under sequestration. I can assure you that, if we have to implement furloughs, all affected employees will be provided at least 30 days' notice prior to executing a furlough and your benefits will be protected to the maximum extent possible. We also will work to ensure that furloughs are executed in a consistent and appropriate manner, and we will also continue to engage in discussions with employee unions as appropriate.

"Working with your component heads and supervisors, the department's leaders will continue to keep you informed. As we deal with these difficult issues, I want to thank you for your patience, your hard work, and your continued dedication to our mission of protecting the country.

"Our most important asset at the department is our world-class personnel. You are fighting every day to keep our country strong and secure, and rest assured that the leaders of this department will continue to fight with you and for you."