General Dynamics layoff of 98 is latest setback for local defense workers
by Patrick McCreless
Nov 26, 2012 | 9019 views |  0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Employees work on a Stryker combat vehicle at the Anniston Army Depot in this 2010 photo. (File photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Employees work on a Stryker combat vehicle at the Anniston Army Depot in this 2010 photo. (File photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Defense contractor General Dynamics Land Systems in Anniston will have 98 fewer workers next year after finishing work building combat vehicles for the Army.

General Dynamics, located at the Anniston Army Depot, announced to employees earlier this month that Jan. 6 will be the final day for 98 workers at the facility. Workers there mainly build and repair Stryker combat vehicles for the military. The company employs about 500 employees at the Anniston site.

Peter Keating, spokesman for General Dynamics Land Systems, said his company was coming to the end of its contract with the Army. The company had a contract for 4,400 Strykers, 4,293 of which have been delivered.

“This is kind of a normal step down in production,” Keating said. “This is the natural course of meeting the production plans the Army had.”

Nathan Hill, military liaison for the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, said he was not surprised General Dynamics had decided to scale down some of its operations.

“There is so much uncertainty budget-wise right now … people are just trying to play it safe as they can from a company standpoint,” Hill said. “I think until the Army makes a decision on the Stryker … they are just playing it safe in terms of workload.”

The U.S. Army has yet to decide whether to extend a pilot Stryker upgrade program called Stryker Exchange, currently under way at the Anniston facility. If the program were extended, more Strykers would be upgraded to provide increased protection for soldiers and more workers would keep their jobs, company officials have said.

Shea Snider, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, who is on the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Committee, said Rogers is working to keep defense contract jobs in the area.

“Congressman Rogers is working hard to continue programs like the Stryker Exchange to help keep good paying jobs in our area,” Snider said. “This is just one piece of the broader community effort to make sure that the depot remains strong for decades to come.”

Keating said, however, that an extension of the program would likely not save the jobs currently set to expire.

“It would prevent another layoff next year, however,” Keating said.

Several defense contractors have announced layoffs this year due to the drawdowns of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

BAE Systems in September announced it will close its Anniston vehicle upgrade and overhaul facility on Coleman Road by Dec. 31, laying off 145 people in the process. The closing BAE facility performed upgrades and overhauls on the military’s M113 and M88 armored vehicles.

Anniston Army Depot officials in January announced more than 562 short-term depot workers would lose their jobs once their contracts expired later in the year. However, new work from the National Guard, the Army Reserve, Saudi Arabia and Iraq has ensured that about 386 of the 562 workers will keep their jobs through at least March.

The facility finished destroying its chemical weapons stockpile last year and employees have been has been working to close the plant ever since. There are still 650 people working at the incinerator for Westinghouse and its subcontractors, along with 20 government employees.

Sherri Sumners, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce Foundation and overseer of Operation 1st Rate — a federally-funded program to help depot workers find new employment — said she had yet to see an influx of General Dynamics employees.

“But we are certainly standing by ready to assist them,” Sumners said.

The program recently expanded, has hired three new employees and opened an office in Quintard Mall.

“We encourage people to come on in and get registered so we can actively search for jobs for them,” Sumners said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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