The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) -- Howard County's largest private employer -- expects a $46.2 million cutback in its Navy contract this fiscal year, forcing new austerity measures five months after it laid off 258 workers because of earlier cuts.
To prepare for the projected cutback, officials at the 365-acre facility near Laurel have instituted sick-leave reduction and energy conservation but say they do not expect more layoffs.
"At this point, there is nothing that [APL officials] see to suggest that we're in any trouble," said Helen Worth, a spokeswoman for the 3,100-worker research lab. "There isn't a RIF [reduction in force] on the horizon for us."
The laboratory, which conducts high-level research on submarines, missiles and satellites, has been told to expect authorization for up to $382.8 million for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1, under a three-year Navy contract signed last year, Ms. Worth said.
That's less than the $429 million the lab was told it could expect annually under the three-year contract, which must be renewed each year. This year's portion of the contract is expected to be signed by the end of the month.
APL's current preparations bring to mind the situation at the laboratory a year ago, when officials dismissed talk of layoffs and worked to find other ways to compensate for what ended up being a $60 million cut in Navy funding.
In the end, they cut 100 workers from the temporary contract staff in early May and 158 full-time workers later that month.
The laboratory is just one of the state's major defense contractors hammered by Pentagon cutbacks in recent years. For example, Westinghouse Electric Corp. announced last month that it would cut 1,000 jobs at its Linthicum complex -- the fifth round of job losses at Westinghouse Electric Systems since 1991.
Since the peak of defense employment in 1988, the state's leading military contractors have cut more than 13,200 employees.
But this year's layoffs were the first major staff reduction since APL opened in 1942. Two years ago, the lab laid off 23 people and 100 took early retirement.
Last year, APL attributed a Navy cutback to general cutbacks in defense spending and to the loss of a NASA project and other government-related projects that came under the Navy contract.
APL has stepped up its search for nondefense contracts to supplement its budget.