Meridian Star

Local News

October 13, 2013

Contractors at NAS Meridian to return

Some furloughed employees back at work

MERIDIAN —     Apparently the United States Navy and the federal government reconsidered and deemed many of the civilian personnel who man vital positions on board Navy bases as essential personnel.

    This after sending all "non-essential" personnel home late last week in the wake of the government shutdown. Monday, civilians such as those who man the Commissary and the Public Affairs Office at Naval Air Station Meridian were back at work, as were many others.

    U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced earlier this week that most DoD civilians placed on emergency furlough during the government shutdown would be asked to return to work.

    "Department of Defense and Department of Justice attorneys concluded that the law does allow the DoD to eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members," Hagel said Monday to Navy Times.

    But the jets were still idle as now the domino effect of the shutdown began to impact contractors the military rely on for the everyday operations of a busy base.

    Navy Capt. Charles C. Moore, commanding officer, NAS

Meridian, addressed the unique situation brought on by the shutdown.

    "We regret the anxiety created by a government shutdown and recognize that it places significant hardships on our workforce which has already been strained by administrative furloughs over the summer," Moore said. "NAS Meridian's mission is to support our tenant commands. Given the temporary

stoppage of flight operations, airfield personnel are supporting Training Wing One

by doing periodic equipment maintenance, general airfield upkeep, and training

activities that will ensure air operations personnel are ready for a speedy return

to flying."

    According to an Oct. 8 report by Defense Daily, the Navy's command for training aviators was forced to cancel training flights and operations after some contractors decided not to work if the were not to be paid. A spokesman for Naval Air Training Command based in Corpus Christi, Texas, told the Defense Daily contractors L-3 Communications and BAE Systems had informed the command they will not continue working under unfunded contracts and would instead furlough employees who perform maintenance work.

    L-3 is the main maintenance contractor for NAS Meridian and this decision, according to Lt. John Supple, public affairs officer for the commander of Training Air Wing One at NAS Meridian, is well within the guidelines of L-3's contract. L-3 is responsible for maintaining the T-45 Goshawks used at NAS Meridian in training Navy and Marine Corps aviators.

    "There were no guarantees L-3 would be paid for their services so they decided to pull their employees," Supple said. "But the Navy came back and said a couple of days later this activity was exempt from the shutdown."

    Although the jets have not taken back to the air yet, Supple said it is a matter of getting L-3 employees back on base to provide the maintenance duties they once provided.     

    "The contractors, not only L-3 but all the others that do similar tasks for the Navy, have to have time to get their people back in place and their systems up and running," Supple said. "Our first priority is the mission we are assigned and a huge part of that mission involves safety so maintenance on the aircraft is a major responsibility and one we, the Navy, and I'm sure L-3 take seriously."

    Supple said he hoped to see the T-45s in the air soon but reiterated the process of getting all personnel, both military and civilian in place, and ensuring safe flight operations, is an important aspect of military training.

    "We are seeing the process moving right along so that is good news," Supple said.

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