JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Within a week of announcing it would need to lay off 100 employees due to the Navy's cancellation of ship maintenance contracts due to mandatory spending cuts, BAE Systems announces it will begin work on two new commercial vessels that will serve offshore drilling operations.

BAE Systems restores and performs routine maintenance on commercial and military ships at its Jacksonville shipyard on Heckscher Drive. Company officials say the contract from Jackson Offshore Operators to build supply vessels "is another major step forward in the company's support to the oil and gas industry."

A second area defense contractor, General Dynamics, also filed notice with the state of Florida last week of layoffs, saying it will let 65 Mayport-based civilian workers go on April 29.

Florida's senior U.S. Senator says he is doing everything he can to get Congress to restore funding for Navy maintenance work as quickly as possible.

"The Secretary of the Navy has delayed maintenance and repair work because of the continuing gridlock in Congress over the budget," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It's not because the work shouldn't be done. Meantime, I've been assured there won't be any moves by BAE until May. And I'm going to do everything I can to get Congress to act before then."