General Dynamics, located at the Anniston Army Depot, told 139 of its approximately 400 employees there Monday that they would be laid off in March and April. General Dynamics builds and repairs combat vehicles.
Peter Keating, spokesman for General Dynamics Land Systems, said the layoffs were necessary due to a lack of work at the facility.
“The biggest part of that is the work producing the Stryker with the double-V hull,” Keating said. “The Army has said it is interested in buying more but they have not come to a decision yet.”
For the last several months, General Dynamics workers have been upgrading Stryker combat vehicles to double-V hull configurations, effectively offering better protection to soldiers from explosions. The upgrades were part of a pilot program that General Dynamics had hoped the Army would extend.
“It’s not really a shock, but it’s not something you really want to hear,” said Nathan Hill, military liaison for the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce. “They were hoping the Army would approve multiple Strykers, but they are not in a position to approve that right now.”
Even if the Army did agree to purchase more upgraded Strykers several months from now, it would be some time before General Dynamics could crank up work again and hire back more employees.
“You’d have to go out and try to get people and get up with suppliers … and that could be six months or more,” Keating said. “And I don’t think anyone who was laid off will sit around for six months or more waiting … so it becomes complicated.”
The layoffs are just the latest in a string of cutbacks the local defense industry has faced since last year due to the drawdowns of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. General Dynamics announced 98 layoffs at the depot in November. BAE Systems in December closed its Anniston vehicle upgrade and overhaul facility, laying off 145 people. The BAE facility performed upgrades and overhauls on the military’s M113 and M88 armored vehicles. Anniston Army Depot officials in January last year announced more than 562 short-term depot workers would lose their jobs once their contracts expired later in 2012. However, new work from the National Guard, the Army Reserve, Saudi Arabia and Iraq has insured that about 386 of the 562 workers will keep their jobs through at least March. The depot currently employs more than 3,000 people.
Hill said he does not expect any more depot layoffs in the near future.
“The depot is very stable based on the funding data we have received,” he said.
Keating said more General Dynamics layoffs could be possible, however.
“I don’t anticipate anything but I can’t rule out anything for this year,” Keating said of layoffs.
Sherri Sumners, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce Foundation and overseer of Operation 1st Rate — a federally funded program to help depot workers find new employment — said her organization is ready to help General Dynamics employees. The program has so far placed 126 former defense industry workers in new jobs and helped convert 51 depot employees from temporary to permanent positions. Sumners said two of the company’s employees have already visited the Operation 1st Rate office.
“I expect more to come by, especially when it gets closer to the layoff date,” Sumners said. “We’re doing what we can to help people find jobs.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.