BAE to slash 125 posts in southern NH

NASHUA – BAE Systems, the largest private employer in the region, will be laying off roughly 125 people in southern New Hampshire in anticipation of decreased defense spending.

The company announced to employees Thursday morning that 250 positions would be cut from the Electronics Solutions section, which has about 9,000 employees worldwide.

About half of the section’s jobs exist in southern New Hampshire, and about half the cuts will likely take place here, said Maryellen Tansey, director of communications.

This “reduction in force” is part of a company-wide move to prepare for expected reductions in defense-related contracts, which make up the bulk of BAE’s business.

“We’re starting to getting a clear message from the U.S. secretary of defense that they’ll be tightening the budget,” said Tansey. “And obviously, the economy has hit us all. We have to continue to shape our work force.”

The move comes less than six months after a company-wide reorganization, in light of the anticipated defense cuts, to create a more “lean” operation. At the time, BAE executives said layoffs were not planned, and the company would look to other methods of cost cutting.

Since then, however, President Barack Obama has taken office and shaped his first defense budget, giving the defense industry a clearer picture of what’s to come.

Industry expert John Keller said the 2010 fiscal year budget actually does not contain severe, across-the-board cuts, especially in areas of BAE expertise like electronic warfare. But the company does expect gradual cuts to continue over the next few years, he said.

“They just want to be prepared for what they think is coming,” said Keller, of Nashua, editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine. “They’re trying to be very proactive and position themselves best they can for the economic climate.”

Keller said BAE is not going to be cutting engineering or technology-related positions. The reduction will most likely involve support positions in areas like communications and facilities, and potentially management.

Tansey said that despite the cuts, the company is still hiring for jobs with particular “skill requirements,” having hired about 850 people this year. The company also saw an increase in revenues this year.

The company is not offering a buy-out package beyond severance and outplacement offers it makes to all departing employees, Tansey said.

BAE Systems is the nation’s sixth-largest defense contractor. The company has had a presence in Nashua since 1999, when it bought Sanders Associates and made the city the home base of its Electronics & Integrated Solutions Operating Group.

The company employs about 4,500 people in New Hampshire, through operations in Nashua, Merrimack and Hudson. Locally, the company makes products such as missile seekers and infrared cameras.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-5831 or Ashley Smith can be reached at 594-6446 or