New defense firm coming to Griffiss may cut 50 positions

Sat, Jun 28, 2003


ROME -- The same day it was announced that the Defense Financing Accounting Service at Griffiss Business and Technology Park would be getting up to 130 new workers, the union president was notified that 50 current DFAS jobs might be eliminated.

"On the very same day (U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-New Hartford) was here announcing the 130 new jobs, (Patrick Shine, director, military and civilian pay services) issued a memo that said 50 positions would be eliminated," said Edmund J. Wiatr Jr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 201, Friday.

Calls to DFAS were not returned.

The June 6 memo, obtained by the Observer-Dispatch, said a study is being undertaken to look at the feasibility of moving the travel pay computation workload from DFAS offices in Rome and other areas of the country to DFAS offices in Indianapolis and Columbus. Some of the employees are eligible to be transferred, according to a subsequent memo issued June 16.

Boehlert held a news conference the same day at DFAS about the Defense Department decision to close a DFAS Europe facility and transfer about 130 of the 260 workers to Rome.
The travel pay workload study is to be completed no later than September 30, the memo said.

The consolidation would take place within a year.

"These are predominately female positions," Wiatr said. "They're labor and non-labor positions, management and supervisory positions. And 92 percent of them are female, many of them single mothers. ... We've been No. 1 in all of DFAS for (quality). And then you break a person's pride when you say you're moving the jobs elsewhere."

Boehlert spokeswoman Melissa Carlson said the congressman is aware of the study and is working to keep the jobs in Rome.

"Clearly nothing has been determined yet. ... DFAS is doing an internal audit of all their facilities," Carlson said. "That said, the congressman is aware of the possibility jobs could be lost and is doing everything he can to insure that doesn't happen. We want to add jobs to DFAS, not make up for losses."

Kathie Novak is a lead technician at DFAS responsible for settling travel vouchers for army soldiers. Should the consolidation take place, her job would be one of the 50 to go.
"I don't know if this area can take another hit," she said. "We've finally gotten to the point where our home has gotten back its market value. I don't think Rome can take another hit."
Novak, who's worked at DFAS since it opened in 1995 and worked at Griffiss park as a federal employee for 16 years, said she's been contacting local, state and national politicians hoping the positions can be saved.

"I don't know what else to do," she said.

Rome Mayor John Mazzaferro met with Novak and said he also will do what he can to save the jobs.

"I'm going to write some letters and make some calls and do what I can to make them retain the travel division here," he said. "I think that's important. It's 50 jobs and we need them here."
Rodger Potocki, a Republican candidate for Oneida County executive, issued a statement Friday encouraging public officials to take action.

"I urge every single chief elected official in our area to meet together and issue a joint statement to President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Dov Zakheim, urging that no (DFAS) jobs be relocated from Rome," he said. "(Instead) we should ... urge that more jobs be consolidated in the Rome location."

New York's two Senators, Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, both Democrats, have already written letters and made calls.

"A few weeks ago, your office informed me that 125 to 130 DFAC jobs would be moved from Europe to Rome. ... It would be cruel irony if your recent positive announcement was followed by the transfer of 50 jobs away from Rome DFAC," Clinton wrote in her letter to Zakheim, comptroller for the U.S. Department of Defense.