CUTLER — The U.S. Navy is expected to announce officially within the next few days that its base in Cutler will be the subject of a federal study to determine if private contractors can deliver essential services more economically than the installation’s 213 military and civilian personnel.
Cutler’s Elmer Harmon, president of Local 2635 of the American Federation of Government Employees, is in Quantico, Va., for naval training for his role in the study. Harmon said officials at the training school confirmed Wednesday that the Navy will make an official announcement of the decision Friday or Monday.
Doug Dunbar, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. John Baldacci, said Lt. Cmdr. Joyce Allen-Kendrick of the Navy’s legislative affairs office already has confirmed the Cutler study.
“Lieutenant Commander Allen-Kendrick said Cutler will be one of the facilities that will go through this study process,” Dunbar said. “It’s important to stress that this is just the beginning of a 12- to 24-month process and the outcome is very uncertain.”
Baldacci and Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have been monitoring the decision-making process since the privatization studies were announced last fall. Although the Navy has conducted similar studies in the past, those have concerned certain functions at a facility. This is the first time an entire facility is being considered, Dunbar said.
The study, as outlined in a September meeting between Maine’s congressional delegation and Navy officials, will be done by a team of military personnel, management, union representatives and an outside consultant hired by the navy. Capt. Eric Glidden, the Cutler base commander, will put together that team, which will develop a detailed description of functions necessary to fulfill the mission of the base and at what level those services must be maintained.
Cutler is a naval communications center that serves as the link between the Pentagon and U.S. nuclear submarines in the North Atlantic, and the base itself is not in danger of closing.
Once the functions are identified, both private-sector teams and the team at the base develop a business plan to carry out the functions, identifying staffing levels and costs. The Navy then compares the cost of the two plans. If the private-sector plan is at least 10 percent less expensive, the private company is awarded the contract.
According to the Navy, the process has about a 50-50 chance for either outcome.
Cutler has 115 military personnel and 98 civilian employees. If privatization becomes a reality, the military personnel will be transferred. Support services for the military, such as the commissary, no longer would be needed. The civilian work force may increase to absorb additional responsibilities. In Cutler’s case, the 98 civilian positions may increase to as many as 120, according to the Navy.
Although the present civilian work force has first bid on those jobs, there is no assurance they will retain their present salaries or benefits, Dunbar said.
Cutler is one of several facilities that will be studied nationwide as part of a U.S. Department of Defense plan to reduce military infrastructure to pay for modernizing weapons.
The Department of Defense has called for reducing the work force by 34,000 this year, according to Monday’s edition of the Federal Times.