Malmstrom adds 48 civilian jobs

The Great Falls Tribune

by Peter Johnson

Malmstrom Air Force Base will land 48 more civilian employees starting this fall, but most of that increase will come from jobs being converted from private contractors to regular Department of Defense employment.

The Air Force’s Fiscal Year 2011 Force Structure Announcement calls for the increase, U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus, both Democrats, said in separate news releases Tuesday.

Fiscal year 2011 starts Oct. 1.

“Word of four-dozen new jobs at Malmstrom is a clear reminder that this base is important to northcentral Montana,” Tester said. “Malmstrom is a world-class facility whose mission strengthens our entire country and Montana’s economy. But we have more to do, and we’ll keep working together to make smart investments in Malmstrom’s future.”

Baucus agreed.

“I applaud the Air Force’s decision to put more people to work in Montana,” he said. “Employ-ment on the base plays a key role in the region’s economy and these new, good-paying jobs are an investment in the future of Great Falls.”

The Air Force report listed state-by-state which bases would gain or lose employees, and which ones would remain static.

It said there will be a gain of 48 positions in Montana, all at Malmstrom. There will be no change at the Great Falls International Airport, where the Montana Air National Guard is located.

Tester aides said Air Force officials told them most of the civilian gains will come from a shift of private contractor jobs to regular Defense Department employment.

2nd Lt. Marshel Slater, a Malmstrom spokeswoman, said the specifics of what positions are being converted to civilian defense workers at Malmstrom are not known yet, but in 2006 and 2008 Congress directed the military to study which functions could be performed better by defense civilians rather than private contractors.

About 4,500 positions will be converted to defense civilians Air Forcewide, she added.

The gain of three fitness employees at Malmstrom could be either physical trainers or other fitness staff, the Tester aides said, while the extra two war-fighter and family service positions will likely be social workers or mental health professionals.

Slater said the Air Force has created “fitness assessment cells,” or offices, to oversee new fitness requirements and to standardize tests that will help improve the fitness and health of airmen.

She said the extra civilians for war-fighter and family services “will help the Air Force continue to expand its efforts to improve the resiliency of airmen and their families before and after deployments.”

“It’s a very positive thing for Malmstrom to get nearly 50 new jobs, especially from a civilian standpoint,” said businessman David Weissman, chairman of the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce’s Central Montana Defense Alliance. “They’re probably longer lasting jobs, in which people can settle down here and raise a family, rather than military jobs, which are also important, but in which people rotate through Great Falls to different locations.”

Tester said Malmstrom currently employs 3,149 military personnel, 619 direct civilian employees and hundreds of private contractor employees.