Craig Campbell, the corporation’s interim CEO, said the layoffs were needed after an anticipated 2013 rocket launch slipped to 2014. Campbell said the corporation also needs to stay within an $8 million budget defined by the Alaska Legislature.
“There were just some things we don’t need to be doing right now,” he said by telephone. “In order to meet the budget target, we made the decision to reduce the force by five.”
John Zbitnoff, general manager of the Kodiak Launch Complex, said the five people laid off were an engineer, a safety officer, two technicians and a scheduler.
Zbitnoff said he is sorry to see those five employees leave. “We’re going to have to adjust to work and pick up some of that workload and make sure we do everything we need to do,” he said.
The layoffs do not affect the planned expansion of the launch complex to allow its use by larger rockets, Campbell said, and the positions should return as launches approach. “When we do get those launches scheduled and we ramp up to the launch tempo … we’re going to refill those positions,” he said.
This year, Gov. Sean Parnell’s budget called for the elimination of vacant positions in order to save money. Campbell said when the time comes, he believes the Legislature and Governor will understand that the corporation’s vacant positions must be filled ahead of a launch.
While Campbell acknowledged that the layoffs are “pretty significant,” he is optimistic about the state-owned corporation’s future.
Plans for a third launchpad at Narrow Cape are progressing, and once Lockheed-Martin formally sets a launch date for its larger rockets in Kodiak, construction can begin.
A small Army launch is also possible in 2014, in addition to the delayed Lockheed-Martin small launch.
“Give us another 12 months, and it’s going to be a lot better,” Campbell said.