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Shipyard silence: Let the workers speak

There are 1,300 civilian employees at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard who are subject to furloughs under sequestration. Keeping the public ignorant of the impact the furloughs will have on these workers is the official policy of the U.S. Navy command under which they toil.

Foster’s Daily Democrat reported on Saturday that it was trying to find out what was going on with these employees when the workers were warned against talking to the paper.

“At no time shall an employee contact or otherwise engage the media to voice opinions or relay facts on Navy or SUBMEPP matters without prior approval of the (public affairs officer) and the Executive Director,” Submarine Maintenance, Engineering, Planning and Procurement Activity (SUBMEPP) public information officer Norm Lafleur wrote in an email to employees, which Foster’s obtained. “This is particularly true during this period of furloughs and budget uncertainty.”

Debbie Jennings, president of the local chapter of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, told Foster’s, “We work for the Department of Defense to defend our freedom.” Darned right. These people should not be barred from speaking to the media about their personal experiences with sequestration.

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