Army Base Closures Force Civilian Employees to Relocate Or Switch Jobs

When Jim and Teresa Savarese took their family to check out the Maryland area where his civilian Army job will be transferred, the three children were sold on the move once they rode horses with the real estate agent.

By the time the family returned to their New Jersey shore community of Point Pleasant, the horses were a fading memory and the children were back to their familiar refrain: "We don't want to move."

Tens of thousands of civilians who work at military bases the government plans to close face the same choice as the Savareses — relocate or look for a new job. The Pentagon says the plan to close 22 major bases by 2011 and reconfigure many others will save $4.2 billion a year.

The base-closings commission held a relocation fair for civilian workers at the Army's Fort Monmouth research and development installation, telling them about housing and schools in Maryland. Their jobs are moving to the Aberdeen Proving Ground near the Chesapeake Bay.

"We're trying to give out basic relocation information to our work force," said Sue Nappi of the Army's Communications Electronics Life Cycle Management Command at Fort Monmouth, who coordinated the fair. "We want to encourage as many people as possible to move, so when we get to Maryland we keep our mission going."

Relocation fairs also have been held for workers at Fort Rucker, Ala., the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois and the Army Testing and Evaluation Command at Alexandria, Va., where 270 civilian jobs also are being moved to Aberdeen. More events are planned, since the base closings are projected four or five years away.

People attending the Alexandria fair were bused to Aberdeen, where exhibitors at the town's minor league baseball park set up displays to show workers what life was like in northeastern Maryland.

The Defense Department hopes the civilians choose to move with their jobs so the military can retain an experienced work force, especially in highly specialized operations.

"It is in the Army's best interest," especially for midlevel and senior workers, said J.M. Mike Hayes, a retired Marine Corps brigadier general who works for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

At the Fort Monmouth event, Jim Farkas gathered plastic bags full of brochures, maps and handouts to look over later with his wife.

Farkas, 52, whose job involves supplying equipment to troops, has 13 years in and said he's pretty sure he'll move. The Farkases have already found some Maryland communities where they would like to live.

"Right now, nobody knows when we're going to move," Farkas said. "You can't plan on selling your home."

With the Monmouth closing still years away, Nappi said her role now is to get workers to think about their options. But for some, it's a tough sell.

"As soon as I have a date, I make a decision," said Susan Martin of Tinton Falls, who hopes the base closing will be delayed long enough so she can close out her career as a property manager at Fort Monmouth.

Chris Savarese, 10, knows he won't get so lucky, unless his parents — his dad is a computer specialist at the base — decide to stay put.

"I don't want to leave my friends, and I'm addicted to this house," the sixth-grader said.