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Stennis employees face layoffs as new contractor takes over

AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD/FILE 
 Spectators gather for the RS-25 Engine Test at Stennis Space Center on Aug. 13. Hundreds of people who work at Stennis are reapplying for their jobs after a new contract to operate and maintain the facility will consolidate services with Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to save money.
AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD/FILE Spectators gather for the RS-25 Engine Test at Stennis Space Center on Aug. 13. Hundreds of people who work at Stennis are reapplying for their jobs after a new contract to operate and maintain the facility will consolidate services with Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to save money. SUN HERALD

Hundreds of employees at Stennis Space Center are hoping to keep their jobs after the contract to support the operations and maintenance of Stennis Space Center changes Feb. 1.

Layoff notices are going out to employees, and those who don't have a job offer from new contractor Syncom Space Services LLC -- also known as S3 -- shouldn't report to work on Monday.

Meg Manthey, spokeswoman for S3, said the company held several meetings with employees of Stennis and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to explain the new contract and the timeline.

"It's a consolidation of three contracts into one," she said.

Personnel from S3 are meeting with congressional delegations this week to explain the new contract.

Its name -- Synergy Achieving Consolidated Operations & Maintenance (SACOM) contract -- shows NASA wants to consolidate services to save money at Stennis and Michoud.

The challenge was how to get these two centers that are 45 minutes apart to work together to increase efficiencies while not compromising any of the services, Manthey said.

"S3 has a strategy, which we outlined in our proposal to NASA, for meeting this challenge, and we look forward to implementing it on Day 1," she said.

Jacobs Engineering, the company that currently oversees operations at Stennis, challenged NASA's awarding the contract to S3, but it was upheld by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The appeal delayed the start date of the contract that has a value of up to $1.2 billion, but not the outcome.

The Advocate reported that once Jacobs' contract expires, 195 Louisiana residents who work at Michoud will be laid off, Jacobs General Manager Bart Jones said in a Nov. 12 letter to Louisiana officials, along with 610 employees at Stennis.

Manthey said she can't yet provide a number of how many of those Stennis personnel will be rehired by S3.

"Just by the nature of the contract there won't be as many jobs as there were before," she said.

Stennis is an engine test facility and Michoud a manufacturer and Manthey said, "We do have jobs that support those unique missions."

Other jobs are the same at both facilities, such as maintenance, safety personnel, food service, engineer and manufacturing support, which are more likely to be consolidated.

The company has sent out job offers and has had some acceptances, she said. The contract is for 10 years and she said S3 hasn't hired for some positions because the company may not have finalized those agreements with NASA.

S3 says on its website that it has proven experience, having consolidated two Department of Defense facilities into one effective organization in Guam, reducing operating cost by 40 percent.

-- The Advocate contributed to this report.

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