Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Maintenance Plan Threatens Military Depots

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Maintenance Plan Threatens Military Depots

Article excerpt

The military should rely more on private industry and less on

government depots like the one in Jacksonville to maintain its

planes, vehicles and other equipment, a Pentagon report says.

The report, which will be officially released today, is not

getting a warm reception from backers of the nation's military

depot complex. They see the move as a step toward dismantling a

system that employs some 89,000 federal workers.

"This is not going to be a catastrophic death. It's going to be

a slow, painful weakening of a robust and vital activity," said

Wiley Pearson, defense policy analyst for the American

Federation of Government Employees.

The Defense Department, eager to find ways to save money,

wants Congress to change laws to make it easier to shift

military maintenance work from government depots to private

industry.

If it occurs, some analysts say, facilities like the

3,900-worker Naval Aviation Depot in Jacksonville could be so

weakened that they eventually will collapse. The depot is the

city's largest industrial employer.

"In this time of diminishing Defense Department budgets, the

department believes that the costs of providing essential

wartime capabilities and performing all depot maintenance work

can be reduced," the report, portions of which were obtained

yesterday, concluded.

U.S. Rep. Tillie Fowler, R-Fla., stressed that the Pentagon

report represents only a recommendation. She said she expects a

battle over the issue in Congress, which must approve any

changes.

"It's going to be fought tooth and nail in the Congress over

the next several months," agreed Susan Wiles, a spokeswoman for

Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney. "Absolutely, the fat lady has

not sung."

The congressionally mandated report suggests changing

regulations that Fowler and others argue are vital to ensuring

the viability of the government depot system.

One puts a 40 percent cap on the amount of military maintenance

work that can be contracted to the private sector. …

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