L3 Technologies, one of Waco’s largest employers, has offered what it is calling “voluntary separation” to several categories of employees at its aircraft modification facility at Texas State Technical College airport.
The buyout offer likely will last through Aug. 31, according to an email message from local L3 spokesman Lance Martin, who declined to discuss the plan.
“This offer is part of a broader effort to lower costs to a leaner structure and improve operating efficiencies within the segment, while ensuring that the business remains competitive,” according to a statement Martin released.
The proposed cutbacks reportedly impact L3’s Crestview Aerospace, Mission Integration and Platform Integration divisions. The Waco facility that employs about 1,400 people is part of Platform Integration.
Martin would not comment on whether layoffs would become an option if L3 does not meet employment goals with voluntary separation.
“This is a human resources matter, so the statement must stand as is,” Martin said via email, adding he could not say more.
Contacted for comment, Kris Collins, senior vice president of economic development for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, released a statement that says, “It is never an easy decision for a company to make changes in its personnel. However, when a company is faced with challenges, it must reevaluate all aspects of operations in order to remain competitive.
“It is important to note that the program being offered is not specific to Waco, but is for multiple facilities in the L3 portfolio.”
L3 modifies military and commercial aircraft in Waco and also has a unit that specializes in installing elaborate interiors in the personal planes of foreign heads of state and dignitaries. These often include personalized entertainment and security systems, as the Tribune-Herald has reported.
L3 in September of last year announced it was laying off 120 employees because it had been slow to get new contracts. The move marked the third sizable personnel reduction in as many years, with about 200 staffers receiving pink slips in 2014 because of belt tightening by the U.S. Department of Defense and another 114 losing their jobs in 2015 as military contracts continued to slow, Martin said at the time.
New York-based L3 has seen peak employment in Waco hover at about 2,000, but that number has been falling for years. The federal budget sequestration in 2013 tied to the Budget Control Act of 2011 mandated automatic budget cuts in most areas, including the defense budget.
The Waco facility routinely upgrades and maintains aircraft ranging from 747s to military C-130s, P-3s and C-27s. It has been involved in high-profile projects such as placing an 8-foot-diameter telescope in the side of a wide-body Boeing 747 aircraft. This NASA-sponsored project called SOFIA, short for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, allowed for surveying the solar system above the Earth’s water vapor.
The Washington Business Journal in March of last year published an article about L3’s recent history of selling business units with small profit margins. L3 executives meeting with investors said they would continue pursuing deals, including the possibility of the Waco facility becoming available, according to the article.
Recently, L3 announced that Michael Strianese, who helped found the company, would retire as CEO at the end of 2017.
President Donald Trump has proposed a $54 billion increase in the U.S. defense budget, a jump of about 10 percent.