Bethesda enriched uranium supplier USEC might need to pull back on Ohio project
by Kevin James Shay
The federal government shutdown is affecting one of Montgomery County’s largest employers, Bethesda defense giant Lockheed Martin, which announced Friday that it would furlough about 3,000 employees companywide on Monday because of the political standoff.
The furloughs at Lockheed — which has about 5,000 employees in Montgomery County — include employees who cannot work because a government facility where they work is closed.
It also covers employees whose duties require a government inspection that cannot be completed or whose worksite has received a stop order.
Lockheed is directing affected employees to use their vacation time to continue to receive pay and benefits.
“I’m disappointed that we must take these actions, and we continue to encourage our lawmakers to come together to pass a funding bill that will end this shutdown,” Lockheed CEO Marillyn A. Hewson said in a statement. “We hope that Congress and the administration are able to resolve this situation as soon as possible.”
The number of Lockheed employees affected is expected to increase weekly if the shutdown continues that long. A company spokesperson could not be reached for comment Friday about how many furloughed employees would be in this area.
The federal shutdown began Tuesday with the start of the government’s new fiscal year. Many congressional Republicans want to see deeper spending cuts and changes to the 2010 health care reform law, like the individual mandate being delayed.
Many congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration say there have been enough cuts and they do not want to change the law.
In fiscal 2012, Lockheed was the federal government’s largest single contractor, with $37 billion in contract money obligated to the company, according to federal figures.
Lockheed received about 82 percent of its revenue of $47.2 billion last year from the U.S. government, including 61 percent from the Department of Defense, according to its 2013 annual report. Some 17 percent came from international customers and 1 percent from private and other clients.
Bethesda enriched uranium supplier USEC potentially could have to furlough some employees — or at least slow down the work — at an Ohio uranium enrichment project if the shutdown runs past Oct. 15, USEC spokesman Paul Jacobson said Friday.
USEC is building the $350 million plant to produce low-enriched uranium to make nuclear fuel. The project is about 80 percent funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The government has provided $227 million for the project.
USEC needs about $48 million more to complete the plant and is negotiating with Congress and the administration to obtain the rest of the funding by Dec. 31. The longer the shutdown continues, the more difficult it is to maintain operations, officials said.
“Failure to reach agreement on a budget by the middle of the month has the potential to severely impact the uranium centrifuge program we’re running in Ohio and Tennessee — emphasis on ‘potential,’” Jacobson wrote in an email.