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Cuts would hobble Radford Army Ammunition Plant, official says
The ammo plant would have to cut production and staff if Congress allows sequestration.
DANIEL LIN | Special to The Roanoke Times
Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, speaks at the Radford arsenal on a wide range of issues, including the effects of budget cuts.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
FAIRLAWN — Forced budget cuts slated for a week from today would curtail employment and production of training ammunition at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, an Army official said Thursday.
Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, said the Army would then be unable to do needed training.
Congress should defer the sequestration budget-reducing cuts and mitigate the nation’s fiscal issues in some other manner, because “it can’t be done on the back of the Army in that we have already taken several hits,” Hammack said at the base outside Radford.
She said the Budget Control Act of 2011 trimmed $50 billion a year from the Department of Defense. Plus the military in 2013 is still functioning under its fiscal year 2012 budget, which she said was inadequate.
The sequestration process being discussed now would cut another $50 billion, or about 9 percent, by Sept. 30, she said. In round numbers, 28,000 civilians, contractors and trainers in Virginia would lose their jobs.
Civilian workers remaining at Virginia Army installations — but not engaged in health and safety jobs — would be furloughed one day a week without pay.
All told, the Virginia economy would shrink by $1 billion a year, she said.
Her remarks seemed timed to enlist citizens to petition federal leaders to change course.
The arsenal facility, rather than reductions, needs modernization, said Hammack, the Army official in charge of Army installations worldwide. Although it is meeting the Army’s needs, many of its buildings, systems and machinery date to the 1940s when the base was set up, she said.
When she took office three years ago, the sprawling Radford arsenal was “the largest energy consumer in the Army,” she said, but stood in third place last fall because of efficiency improvements.
“There is a lot of great work going on here,” she said.
Don Evans, the civilian executive assistant to base commander Lt. Col. Byron Penland, said the energy to which the assistant secretary referred is steam generated by coal.
“We are a chemical plant. We use a lot of steam to make our product,” Evans said.
With “environment” in her title, Hammack is also concerned with a recent decision by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to investigate whether plant wastes have migrated to private wells.
Hammack said earlier tests show no toxic materials are leaving the site. She said she is confident the plant is not causing any harm to local neighborhoods or communities.
However, “we look forward to another set of eyes on to see if there is something we have missed,” she said.
The plant remains the state’s largest source of toxic emissions, all of it within permit limits, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality.
A new base contractor, BAE Systems, has spearheaded a number of changes at the plant since arriving last summer.
For one, crews have begun site work prior to construction of a new nitrocellulose production facility, which is estimated to cost $240 million. That project has been funded, Hammack said.
In addition, the base has been additionally fortified with a quick-release matrix of cables that can rise from the pavement on Constitution Road, the main access road into the plant. When activated by guards, it can block an unauthorized vehicle, plant spokesman Charlie Saks said.
BAE said it, too, is worried about sequestration, but “we are not currently planning for any adjustments in staffing at the plant,” said Bill Barnett, BAE Systems general manager.
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