Defense Accountants Rally to Save Their Jobs

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Federal defense workers in Ohio and New York rallied the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission to save their jobs.

Workers from the biggest accounting system in the world, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, which handles military payroll, made their case Monday at a hearing in Buffalo, N.Y., near the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, which is scheduled for closure.

Signs of support were everywhere, with workers carrying signs or wearing orange t-shirts with the logo “All Roads Lead to Rome,” referring to Rome, N.Y., where a closed DFAS office would leave 290 people jobless, the Observer-Dispatch of Utica reported.

The Pentagon wants to consolidate all the DFAS payroll and accounting work in three cities – Indianapolis, Denver and Columbus, Ohio. That means offices in Cleveland, Ohio and Rome, N.Y., would be closed. The BRAC Commission is taking comments around the country, and will make its recommendations to President Bush in September.

The Cleveland Defense Industry Alliance (CDIA), a group of business leaders who aim to retain and increase DFAS jobs, said in a press release that the Department of Defense base closure data wrongly concentrates on 10 percent of the DFAS operations – the facilities and associated building costs – ”while almost completely ignoring the 90 percent portion that consists of the people and the critical work they do.” More than 1,000 jobs would be lost if the Cleveland facility closes.

The group also said that the department discounts the 19 unique functions performed at Cleveland DFAS, which is the center for Navy pay operations.

U.S. Reps. Steve LaTourette and Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Ohio planned to attend the rally. Tubbs-Jones told NewsChannel5 of northeast Ohio: "We have developed the skills to handle garnishments right here. That's the only place it's done, we have developed the skills to handle military reservists, and it's the only place that it's done."

The lawmakers have joined fellow Ohio U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich and U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a New York Republican, in arguing that the Pentagon has not accurately determined the costs of consolidating services. They say the move to Indianapolis would cost much more than the current estimate of $2.8 million, the Associated Press reported.

"We've got the Pentagon playing musical chairs, not just with the jobs at DFAS, but with the lives of the people that work there," Kucinich said.

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