June 23, 2024

NAVAIR Leadership Seeks to Clarify Budget Cut Rumors


By Jay Friess

NAVAIR logoThe Naval Air Systems Command’s top leadership appeared at the Bay District Social Hall in Lexington Park, Maryland Monday before an audience of military contractors to do some rumor control.

Yes, some cuts are coming to contract support services at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. No, they will not be in the form of a 15 percent axe chop off fiscal 2012 budgets, according to those who attended the event.

The meeting, sponsored by the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance, The Patuxent Partnership, Naval Aviation Small Business Roundtable and Acquisition Improvement Team, was closed to the press; however, Navy and local officials answered questions afterwards.

NAVAIR’s commander Vice Adm. David Architzel, deputy commander Kal Leikach and assistant commander for contracts Diane Balderson appeared on the Monday panel after rumors swirled throughout NAVAIR and the contracting community earlier this month that some activities would have to cease paying for contracted employees in order to meet the government’s policy goal of a 15 percent spending cut. Contractors said they began hearing that they would have to begin laying employees off immediately.

The rumors began about a month after the federal Office of Budget and Management (OMB) directed federal agencies how to account for how they will meet the Obama administration’s goal, set late last year, for cutting federal spending by 15 percent. The directive was in conjunction with the 10-year, $467 billion cut to defense spending mandated by Congress last year in the National Defense Authorization Act.

Whereas the NDAA exempted programs using overseas contingency funding or funds for research, development, testing and evaluation – two of the most important funding sources for Pax River – the OMB directive did not exclude those areas.

Following the excitement of the last two weeks, NAVAIR’s leadership committed Monday to overhauling its internal communications and to keeping the contracting community better informed of budget developments. Meanwhile, the office of Rep. Steny Hoyer plans to contact Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, and defense secretary Leon Panetta in order to secure more spending leeway for Pax River’s testing and special operations programs.

But that does not mean Pax River will avoid cuts. One audience member said the local contracting community has been slow to appreciate the impact of budget cuts in the region, comparing its thought process to the Kubler-Ross model of grief. “They’re just moving out of denial,” he said.

However, St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan countered the audience’s gloomy outlook, saying, “Things will be OK. You probably won’t see in the future the growth we’ve had for the last 10 to 15 years. … But we’re still going to be the envy of the nation.”

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