U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, has offered an amendment today to a bill to fund the government after March 27 that would increase Defense Department operations and maintenance funding by redirecting monies from the Pentagon biofuels program.
The region's largest employer, The Tobyhanna Army Depot, could be a big beneficiary if the amendment becomes law.
Toomey, after learning that the Monroe County depot that employs about 5,000 people, plans to lay off 418 civilian contract employees in the coming weeks, authored an amendment to provide a modest increase to the Defense Department's account which helps pay for the salaries of these and other Army civilian contract employees involved in operations and maintenance.
To ensure that his proposal is deficit-neutral, the Toomey amendment would offset this funding increase by diverting monies from the Pentagon biofuels programs.
“We can and should ensure our national security even at a time that we are reducing our defense spending,” said Toomey. “I was very disturbed to learn about the planned layoff of hundreds of highly skilled civilian employees at Tobyhanna Army Depot. These workers perform vital maintenance on military equipment and play a significant role in our national security efforts.”
The 418 industrial trade and electronics workers are contracted through URS Federal Support Services Inc., of Oklahoma City, Okla.. Their layoffs began Friday and will continue in phases through the end of April.
According to a release issued by the depot, the facility contracted over the past several years to support increased depot workload tied to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But as those operations have ended or begun to wind down, the increased workload seen in recent years has begun levelling off. The rise and fall of workload is a key reason Tobyhanna has used contracted workers.
The wind down of war operations coincides with sequestration, the across-the-board mandatory decreases to the federal budget. The cuts equate to $309 million in lost funding for the depot.
“In light of all of the waste, duplication, and lower priority spending in the federal government, I am confident that we can make more sensible cuts in spending than severely reducing the Army's operations and maintenance work,” Toomey said. “One area for savings is the Defense Department biofuels program, which requires the taxpayer to grossly overpay for fuel. Given tightening budgets, it makes little sense to waste money on inefficient, overpriced energy sources when we could use those same funds to help support critical maintenance services for the warfighter. I look forward to the Senate voting on my amendment and, hopefully, supporting our military's operations and maintenance efforts across the country.”