Future uncertain for Ft. Monmouth workers

Employees whose jobs are transferred likely to be offered spots


Staff Writer

With Fort Monmouth at the beginning of the long closing process, more than 5,000 employees are wondering what their next step will be.

Most of the fort’s operation is expected to be moved to Aberdeen (Md.) Proving Ground but specifics have yet to be announced. Also, the closure is pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed to overturn the Defense Department’s decision to close the fort.

According to Julie Curren, a public affairs officer for Fort Monmouth, the fort currently employs 5,088 federal civilian workers and 467 military personnel, as well as over 2,500 contractor employees.

“We cannot state at this point how many of those jobs would move elsewhere and how many jobs would be eliminated,” Curren stated in an e-mail last week. “In previous BRAC [Base Realignment and Closure] decisions, many impacted employees were offered positions at other installations and locations. We expect that individuals whose jobs are transferring would most likely be offered jobs at new locations. Even if employees’ jobs are not transferring, however, every effort will be made to place employees in other jobs within the Defense Department.”

Curren stated that each contractor would have to make its own determination regarding how its work force is affected.

Among the classifications of workers that the fort employs directly for “mission” related functions are engineers, scientists, logisticians, acquisition specialists, information technology specialists, attorneys, accountants and security/intelligence specialists.

Jobs that are part of garrison-related functions include safety engineers, architects, environmental engineers, management analysts, police officers, teachers and public affairs specialists.

The Patterson Health Clinic located at the fort employs doctors as well as a host of different medical specialists. The fort also employs dentists and veterinarians.

“There are also special investigators attached to the CID [Central Intelligence Department] branch here,” according to Curren.

There is a mix of emotions among Fort Monmouth employees in reaction to the news that the fort will be closing.

Richard Barnett, East Brunswick, has worked at the fort for 20 years and currently holds the title of information technology specialist.

He said his reaction to the news that the Defense Department had decided to close the installation was a partly trying to see what it means to him as well as what it means to others.

“If you take a step back,” he said, “and look at it from a logical point of view, it probably makes sense, but it’s hard to separate that from your own feelings.”

Barnett said that because the fort isn’t scheduled to be completely closed down for four to six years, he hopes to retire before he has to make a decision about moving to Maryland.

“Aberdeen is not that far geographically,” he said. “If, for some reason, the closing process is accelerated, I would simply agree to work there, but work out some sort of creative commuting, like sleeping on a cot a few days a week, or renting a cheap apartment. I’m not going to physically uproot my family. My wife has a job here, and she makes good money. We certainly don’t want to lose that income.”

Barnett said that there has been a combination of sadness and apprehension since the news was delivered, but that it wasn’t necessarily shocking.

“It was kind of a piecemeal thing,” said Barnett about the process of finding out about the decision to close the fort. “It was sort of gradual. It was just a series of recommendations.”

He said his real sympathy goes out to the contract workers who will not be offered the option of moving to Aberdeen.

“Everyone is going through their own personal scenarios,” he said.

James Whyte, Red Bank, a computer software engineer at Fort Monmouth for the past eight years, said that he has no problem following the operations of the fort down to Maryland.

“I guess I sort of expected it not to happen,” he said, “given the present situation and what services the fort provides, but I don’t know if I was exactly shocked.”

Whyte said that since the news, he sees the operation of the fort as just business as usual because he knows it will be at least five years before the final move is made.

“It still seems so far in the future,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to be making an impact on the day-to-day operations as far as I can see.”