By DAVE GYMBURCH, Staff writer

Concerns among Rome Defense Finance and Accounting Service employees about another possible round of defense-related cuts are prompting a forum next month on the topic, including scheduled appearances by federal and state elected officials.

The DFAS/community advisory committee session, Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Griffiss Institute, aims for more local emphasis than a similar meeting last month hosted by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand concerning defense-related facilities statewide, says DFAS union president Edward Abounader. DFAS has about 1,100 employees at Griffiss park.

The widely speculated possibility of a 2015 federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission process known as BRAC has generated numerous inquiries by DFAS union members, who are "certainly apprehensive...a lot of concern," said Abounader. The most recent BRAC review in 2005 overturned a Department of Defense recommendation to close Rome DFAS.

Regarding the Gillibrand-hosted meeting in Syracuse to help prepare for another potential BRAC round, "while informative, many of our local leaders thought specific emphasis should be placed on DOD facilties such as Rome Labs and DFAS," said a DFAS local union executive board letter to members.

Among those expected at the Dec. 12 forum are Rep. Richard L. Hanna, R-24, Barneveld, who will "brief his position," said the letter; Hanna last month announced a "Congressional Working Group" that will seek to promote and protect military facilities and assets throughout the state. In addition, state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-116, Utica, will "be in attendance to discuss their thoughts on the subject," the letter said.

Robert Lipe, present of the union representing about 325 Rome Air Force Research Laboratory employees, also has been invited to the forum, said Abounader. The site, commonly called Rome lab and with about 788 direct staffers overall, was recommended for closure in 1995 but a BRAC review overturned it.

Much of the discussion at the recent Syracuse meeting focused on "hard-core" military facilities such as Fort Drum or the Watervliet arsenal, Abounader said. But a local concern was to ensure that the "effort to prepare for a potential BRAC" includes "non-military operations...back-room activities" like DFAS that support the military sites, he added.

The upcoming forum is geared for those "interested in gaining a better knowledge of BRAC and our preparation to highlight the exceptional performance and production of Rome employees..." the DFAS union letter said. Gillibrand recently expressed confidence in prospects for defense-related sites at Griffiss, commenting "I don’t think we’re vulnerable at all" while emphasizing the importance and efficiency of their work.

Besides DFAS and the lab, another major defense-related site at Griffiss is the Eastern Air Defense Sector, an Air National Guard facility that has about 410 employees.

The Rome DFAS/community advisory committee was formed last year, including various business and political representatives, to enhance awareness of DFAS’ impact and activities.