Base-closing commissioner tours Cleveland payroll office
Being the poorest big city is another basis to keep jobs.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- A member of the Pentagon's base-closing commission got a firsthand look at the city's military payroll office Thursday and offered a sliver of hope to civic leaders and employees trying to save its 1,000 jobs.
Retired Air Force Gen. Lloyd Newton toured the skyscraper home of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service with Gov. Bob Taft and hometown members of Congress. He said he would forward what he had learned to fellow commission members.
"There is some cost data that may be different, there may be a discrepancy there. The department may not have had all of it," Newton told reporters in the lobby of the Celebrezze Federal Building, where the payroll agency occupies 14 floors.
New office building
Newton declined to specify what cost-saving considerations he had learned, but politicians trying to preserve the jobs have focused on a proposal to reduce agency rent by constructing a new office building for DFAS.
U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich, Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Steven LaTourette have complained that the higher rent charged DFAS in Cleveland by the federal General Services Administration has put the jobs at a disadvantage compared to other cities that also have DFAS jobs.
The base-closing commission plans a hearing Monday in Buffalo, N.Y., to consider appeals from the region challenging recommended base closings and consolidations.
The Department of Defense wants to combine DFAS payroll and accounting work in Indianapolis, Denver and Columbus, Ohio.
Significant job loss
Under the base closing plan, Ohio stands to lose 1,000 jobs at an Air National Guard Base in Mansfield and 50 at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Overall, Ohio would gain about 241 additional jobs, including 1,758 at the Defense Supply Center in Columbus and suburban Whitehall and 494 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
Newton acknowledged that sentiment around the country to preserve hometown jobs made it difficult to consider closing military bases or facilities, but he said the commission was determined to focus on the well-being of the nation's military.
"We need to find every way we possibly can to insure that every dollar that is being spent is being spent for the absolute need of our men and women in uniform," Newton said.
"The more I go and visit a location, the more difficult my job becomes," he said.
After Newton's tour, Mayor Jane Campbell and other elected officials made the city's pitch for the jobs at a rally at a downtown park overlooking Lake Erie.
DFAS employees wearing green "Keep Cleveland DFAS" T-Shirts mentioned a common concern: They do good work and don't want their jobs shifted elsewhere.
"The agency needs to stay in Cleveland," said Vanessa Lawson, 47, a 21-year DFAS veteran from Cleveland Heights. "We're good. If you go by the quality of work, it's the best."
Lawson, heading off for a free hot dog lunch offered to rally participants, said the city's poverty rate, the worst among the nation's big cities, was an additional reason Cleveland shouldn't lose the DFAS jobs.
Tamara Davis, 49, of Cleveland, who works in a Social Security Administration office in the same building, said she has been impressed by the professionalism of the DFAS staff, which prepares military payroll and retirement checks.
"People need jobs. Their professionalism is real good," she said.