MAYPORT, Fla. - The commanding officer of Mayport Naval Station says the notices haven't come out yet, but he expects more than 1,000 civilians who work on the base will be cut back one day a week due to federal budget cuts.
Capt. Douglas Cochrane says the notices are in the chain of command and may be released this week, although the 20 percent cutback civilian employees may not begin until mid-April.
These employees do everything from operate tug boats, repair ships to work as flight control operators.
"They are basically sprinkled throughout the base," Cochrane said. "There really is no part of the base that doesn't have civilian employees."
Thousands more civilian employees at NAS Jacksonville -- including nearly 3,000 who work at the Fleet Readiness Center Southeast -- are awaiting the same news.
The U.S. Navy on Saturday issued orders to plan and prepare to cancel and shut down a variety of operations and procurement efforts. That move was in response to a presidential directive signed Friday evening by President Obama to begin the forced federal spending cuts known as sequestration.
The Navy, which has been the most aggressive military service warning of dire consequences both of sequestration and the prospect of a year-long continuing resolution funding scheme, didn't actually set in motion the biggest of the moves — most of which are expected to take place within weeks if Congress doesn't act to reverse the cuts.
"These actions aren't final yet, but we've begun the process for them to take place," a Navy official in Washington said Saturday night. "We're still holding out hope that sequestration will be fixed, or that Congress will pass a defense appropriations bill."
In a fleet-wide message issued Saturday, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Navy Department "intends to commence some reductions immediately."
Key elements are plans to:
- Shut down Carrier Air Wing Two (based at NAS Lemoore in California) in April, with moves to gradually stand down or reduce flying time in five more air wings by the end of the year.
- Defer the humanitarian cruise this year of the hospital ship Comfort to Central and Latin America.
- Cancel or defer deployments of up to six ships in April.
- Lay up four Pacific Command support ships starting in April.
- Return the deployed destroyer Shoup and frigate Thach to their homeports.
Mabus, in the message, also said the service would begin negotiating contract modifications with contractors to "de-obligate" work to buy Virginia-class submarines, reactor power units and one joint high speed vessel.
Actions announced earlier, Mabus added, will continue, including the deferral of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln's refueling overhaul; major repairs to the submarine Miami and destroyer Porter; the deployments of the carrier Harry S. Truman and the Mayport-based cruiser Gettysburg; the civilian hiring freeze; planning for civilian furloughs; and the reduction of most units in the U.S.
Asked about Gov. Rick Scott statement last week that the sequestration would halt three ships from being transferred from Norfolk to Mayport, Capt. Cochrane said, "I have not heard that."
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