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Lockheed's cuts hit San Diego

Lockheed Martin Corp. reacted to a challenging defense budget by cutting hundreds of jobs on Tuesday, and San Diego was among the regions on the chopping block.

Twenty local Lockheed Martin employees got word on Tuesday they no longer have a job at the company. That is in addition to 12 employees who participated in a voluntary layoff program earlier this year.

In total, Tuesday's announcement affected 308 U.S.-based employees that work for the defense and aerospace giant’s Mission Systems & Sensors business.

The locally affected employees work in Scripps Ranch at a site that creates software and sensors for helicopters to jets bought by the government.

In early April, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) said it needed to slim down staff in the unit as part of an effort to reshape the business and react to a troubling defense budget environment.

Many of the unit's programs are moving from development to production, which created "softness" in workload, according to the company.

"There are still currently some job opportunities for desired skill sets that will be critical for our future success," the statement said.

Employees affected by the layoff will be offered severance benefits, continued use of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for them and their families and outplacement services to assist with job and career transitions.

Under the voluntary portion of the layoff in May, 432 employees opted to leave.

“While there was strong participation in the voluntary layoff program … we still needed to address softness in certain areas of the business,” according to a statement.

The total number of employees affected by the voluntary and involuntary program totals 740, which shrinks the total work force of the business unit by about 5 percent.

“Given the budget pressures facing our customers, Lockheed Martin is examining every aspect of our business to ensure we are as efficient and cost effective as possible in meeting their needs,” said Dale Bennett, president of Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors business, in a statement. “Reducing our work force is a difficult but necessary decision to position our business for future growth and ensure we remain competitive.”

It's not the only Lockheed layoff to hit the San Diego region this year. In March, Lockheed laid off 75 employees at 4470 Eastgate Mall in La Jolla, many of which included software and systems engineers.

The two sets of layoffs are not related, said a spokesman.

Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin employs about 123,000 people worldwide and had 2011 net sales of $46.5 billion.

President Barack Obama's defense budget proposal for fiscal 2013, starting Oct. 1, calls for defense spending over the next 10 years that is $487 billion lower than previously planned.

“Sequestration” has become a highly-feared word among military circles because it means up to $600 billion of additional cuts starting Jan. 1, 2013.

U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, reacted to Tuesday's layoffs at Lockheed and spoke out about jobs that aid with national security being eliminated.

“Even before the sequestration countdown began, the defense budget had already been reduced by $450 billion and the pink slips going to workers in San Diego and throughout the country today are a direct result of these cuts,” he said.

The layoffs, he noted, foreshadow “broader and more severe workforce reductions,” should sequestration occur.

In late May, Hunter and other fired-up military supporters launched a new Super PAC and national association called Fight4America in front of the USS Midway Museum.

The campaign warns America about the severity of the defense cuts.

Educational outreach will come in the form of TV commercials, op-ed pieces in newspapers across the country and speeches like the one on Tuesday to create enough momentum to stop the cuts from happening.

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