Forced cuts may hit hard at Hanford

Hanford will need to cut more than $156 million from its spending between now and the end of the year under forced federal budget cuts, or sequestration, that took effect Friday.

The cuts are estimated to affect up to 4,700 of Hanford’s almost 9,000 employees, either with forced time off or, in some cases, layoffs.

The Department of Energy Hanford Richland Operations Office needs to cut $78 million from its spending. The other DOE Hanford office, the Office of River Protection, is expected to have to cut its spending by at least $79 million and most likely more.

The Richland Operations Office expects the budget cut to translate to furloughs — or additional time off — for an estimated 1,700 contractor employees and layoffs for an estimated 200 contractor employees.

That could affect employees at CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., Mission Support Alliance and Washington Closure Hanford.

The Office of River Protection still was waiting for definitive information Monday. However, the cut of $79 million or more for its work could cause furloughs or layoffs for up to 2,800 employees. That could affect employees at its two main contractors, Bechtel National and Washington River Protection Solutions.

The Office of River Protection oversees work at the Hanford tank farms, where 56 million gallons of radioactive waste are held in underground tanks, and the multibillion-dollar vitrification plant under construction to treat the waste for disposal.

More should be known today when the Department of Energy is expected to send a letter to Inslee outlining details of budget decreases at Hanford.

DOE Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman also sent a memo to DOE contractors Monday saying that DOE will need to take actions with some contracts.

That could include stopping or suspending work, reducing work or partially or completely terminating some contracts.

Also, planned contract actions for new work could be changed, delayed or canceled, the memo said.

Several Hanford contractors sent messages to their employees Monday with what information they had about sequestration.

CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation anticipates that employees will need to take four to five weeks of paid or unpaid leave as furloughs between April 1 and Sept. 30, John Fulton, CH2M Hill president, said in a memo. CH2M Hill should receive a final funding reduction amount this week and then coordinate with DOE on what projects will see reduced work.

It will work with the other Hanford contractors and the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council to understand the impacts of layoffs and any Hanford-wide “bump and roll,” as employees with more seniority are allowed to claim jobs with other contractors if they are targeted for a layoff.

Mission Support Alliance told employees Monday that it would use a combination of steps to reduce spending.

That could include furloughs and possible layoffs, plus an existing subcontract restructuring plan. It will review open positions before filling them and also will curtail travel, training and purchases of materials.

Washington Closure Hanford told employees that it would receive briefings from DOE this week on what it can expect.

Washington River Protection Solutions had no numbers to report to employees, because the Office of River Protection has not had numbers to pass along.

However, president Mike Johnson said the contractor would begin to reduce spending immediately while it waits for more information.

Most travel, non-required training and conference attendance will be canceled, employees were told. Hiring is on hold until further notice. Purchases are to be limited to those required to maintain reliable facility or system operations.

Contractors told employees that as soon as they have more information, they will let employees know.

— Annette Cary: 582-1533;; Twitter: @HanfordNews