ROCK ISLAND -- The size of the civilian workforce at the Rock Island Arsenal has fallen by at least 436 people in the past 12 months as budget uncertainties take a toll on the biggest employer in the Quad Cities.
A hiring freeze combined with sequestration and continuing uncertainty over federal budgets means the decline is likely to continue. The drop in employment levels has come primarily through attrition, with some jobs left unfilled after a worker retires or leaves their post.
Early retirement incentives also have been offered this year to cut the civilian workforce, with well more than 100 taking the buyouts at different commands on the island in recent months, according to public affairs officers.
Civilian workers at the Arsenal are in the third year of a pay freeze and must take 11 unpaid days off between now and September as a result of the automatic budget reductions known as the sequester.
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered a hiring freeze in January for civilian Department of Defense positions because of uncertainty over federal spending.
The civilian workforce at the Arsenal is down at the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, the Rock Island Arsenal Garrison and the Army Contracting Command. Numbers from the Joint Munition Command were not available Tuesday.
The furloughs and cutbacks will have a ripple effect in the local economy, said Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce executive vice president Paul Rumler.
The Arsenal is the region's leading employer when service members stationed on the island are included, with more than 8,000 employed at the facility in 2012, according to the Chamber. Deere & Co. was in second spot with about 7,300 employees.
Employment levels at the Arsenal have ebbed and flowed in the past and, with the war in Iraq over and the conflict in Afghanistan drawing to an end, a fall in employment is to be expected, Mr. Rumler said.
The Chamber is focused on ensuring that a "critical level of workforce and skills" is maintained at the Arsenal, Mr. Rumler said.
At the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, the workforce is down by about 400 in the past year, according to JMTC spokesman Rhys Fullerlove. The reduction includes some contractors, he said.
One bright spot for employment on the Arsenal is at the Army Sustainment Command, where employment is up to 780 from 731 in 2012.
The permanent civilian workforce at the ASC is down from 570 to 517 said ASC spokesman Dan Carlson, but the number of contractors has risen from 181 to 263 because of a new mission.
Jobs are still being filled on the Arsenal in some cases, said First Army spokesman Steve Harmon.
A newly introduced rule to help control costs only allows recruitment for permanent civilian workers withina 50-mile radius of the Arsenal, he said. Generally, this means filling positions with workers already working elsewhere on the Arsenal, Mr. Harmon said.
Rock Island Arsenal civilian workforce June 2012 June 2013 Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center 1,700 1,300 Rock Island Arsenal Garrison 250 204 Army Sustainment Command 731 780 First Army 139 127 Army Contracting Command 558 531 Joint Munitions Command N/A 779 Source: Rock Island Arsenal public affairs officers
Today is Friday, Dec. 13, the 347th day of 2013. There are 18 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: Merry sleigh bells jingle in our streets in the wake of a driving northwest storm of snow and rain. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Thomas Campbell was elected commander of John Buford Post 243, Grand Army of the Republic. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Thomas B. Reidy was named consul of C.W. Hawes Camp No. 1550, and L.H. Eihl was named consul of Camp 29, Modern Woodmen of America. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island aldermen last night upheld the view of a petition signed by 150 businessmen that the city should not install parking meters. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Total volume during the Christmas mailing season may reach 12 million pieces in Rock Island, according to Rock Island Postmaster Carl J.L. Wessel. 1988 -- 25 years ago: The aromas filling the air at the Rock Island Lines depot in Rock Island soon will be prime rib and roast duck rather than sawdust and plaster. A tourist train will be offering dinner excursions in mid-February or early March, according to Dan Carmody, executive director of the Development Association of Rock Island.