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Witness Testimony of Gregg Norris, Human Resources Manager, BAE Systems, Electronic Systems Sector, Fort Wayne, IN

Chairman Stutzman, Ranking Member Braley, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee.  As a representative of an employer of nearly 1000 employees in Northeast Indiana, I appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you the experiences we have had in recruiting and employing nearly 100 veterans into our business.

About our Company

My name is Gregg Norris and I am the Human Resources manager for the BAE Systems facility in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  BAE Systems is a global defense and security company with approximately 100,000 employees worldwide.  The Company delivers a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and support services.  Our division serves the aerospace and defense community with capabilities and products that improve operational safety and enhance mission effectiveness.

At our Fort Wayne facility, we manufacture a variety of both commercial and defense electronics for avionics applications.  Our workforce is comprised of approximately 650 union represented hourly production workers with the balance of 300 support personnel in various disciplines including engineering, finance, operations, and supply chain management.  Our Company (including legacy owners) has been in Fort Wayne since 1985.

We have been very fortunate to be able to grow the Fort Wayne business from just over 700 employees in 2004 to a planned population of nearly 1000 by the end of 2011.   In addition to this growth, there has been significant attrition as a result of many of our employees retiring.  Consequently, we have hired nearly 500 employees over the past five years.  Veteran hiring has played a significant role in the success of this effort.

Veteran Hiring

Local hiring efforts that focus on veteran hiring include participation in the BAE Systems Corporate Warrior Integration Program which I will describe more fully later.  We reach a large military audience through advertising all of the Fort Wayne openings on Vetjobs.com. Career Builder's Talent Network is also utilized which reaches 98% of transitioning military through their partnerships with the top military job boards, Department of Veteran Affairs, and the primary social media source - Facebook.  BAE Systems participates in a variety of Corporate Gray hiring career fairs across the country including last year's participation in Chicago where Fort Wayne employees attended.  As I mentioned earlier, currently about 10% of our employee population are veterans, including 12 new veterans hired this year.

When we consider veterans during our recruiting process, we feel there are many positive skill sets that these individuals automatically offer our Company.   Two of the talents that service men and women offer immediately as a result of their military experiences are teamwork and a sense of self-discipline.   It is critical to our business that we have employees with the necessary skills to effectively work together.  Like the military, for us to be successful, we must all work together toward a common goal or mission. 

The discipline that is instilled in soldiers as part of their military background is also a strongly desired employee attribute.  We need people that show up for work, arrive on time, support our leadership, and have a strong sense of respect for themselves, their coworkers and the Company’s values; all characteristics we typically find in our veterans.

The Wounded Warrior Program

It is my pleasure to have with me today, James Rodriquez.  James is the Director of BAE Systems’ Warrior Integration Services.  BAE System’s Warrior Integration Program has been very successful and I would like to share some information about the program with you today. 

Although there are challenges facing veterans with disabilities as they return to the workforce, there are a variety of organizations and businesses within the country who are working diligently at assisting veterans to overcome these obstacles and BAE Systems is one of them.  The employees of BAE Systems have resolved to positively impact these issues and to directly enhance the transition of our veterans and Wounded Warriors by establishing a Warrior Integration Program. The defining word in our Warrior Integration Program is INTEGRATION.  We are integrating veterans, Wounded Warriors, and their families into a company that can serve as an extension of their military careers.   The program provides employment positions with which they can identify and still maintain a connection with supporting their former soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines.  The value of service that these young men and women bring to our workforce is immeasurable.  Due to their unique set of military skills, training, and leadership experience, they bring a new perspective to the way we do business and the products we build.  It is a worthy and necessary investment to actively find ways to employ Wounded Warriors within BAE Systems and to dispel the perception that they are not employable.  In order to do this, our business leaders from the corporate senior leadership team to the first line supervisors have chosen to take a leading role in the implementation, and sustainment of the program.  From the beginning of our program initiative in 2008 to the current Warrior Integration Services we have today, we have known that our success in this great endeavor depends on two words - leadership and education.  We have successfully established a supportive infrastructure within BAE Systems for our Warriors which adds to our talent pipeline, strengthens our customer connections, enhances our military charity partner relationships, and extends our view of diversity and inclusionIn essence, our employment position fundamentally provides mission-centered work with which the veteran can identify, contribute, and be passionate.  It also provides an opportunity for career progression and growth. 

We have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of these young men and women by creating employment opportunities in an uncertain environment. BAE Systems is committed to assisting our nation’s heroes with a new uniform and the same commitment to which they are accustomed.  The Warrior Integration Program has had a dramatic impact on the veterans’ abilities to successfully transition to the workforce after their military service.  It has also made a positive impact on the business and the stability of the veterans’ families. 

BAE Systems Military Leave Policies

BAE Systems Military Leave policies exceed federal legal requirements in supporting its employees who serve in the military. Employees who are actively serving in the military are eligible to receive a military pay differential that covers the difference between military pay and their regular BAE Systems salary.  Reservists on duty for annual training may receive up to two weeks of differential pay, and employees called to active duty may receive up to six months of differential pay.  Additionally, if applicable, we are able to implement a flexible work schedule to allow for mandatory medical appointments for veterans and Wounded Warriors.  In these specific instances, alternate shifts serve to accommodate absences.  Medical appointments can be attended during non-working hours and the veteran or Wounded Warrior can be assured his or her employment within the business remains intact while they serve our country at home or overseas.

Recommendations

In terms of recommendations that I would offer to the committee, based on feedback from our recruiting team, I would first and foremost encourage continued focus on education and opportunities for Veterans to return to school.  Many of the positions within BAE Systems require college degrees which can be an obstacle for veterans.  Although the majority of our positions are hourly associates in Fort Wayne and require only a high school diploma, post secondary educational experiences can still be of great value to a veteran candidate in differentiating themselves from a very large pool of potential candidates.  Although the Fort Wayne site is a manufacturing location, most of our salaried support positions require technical degrees typically in electrical and mechanical engineering.

As I considered other recommendations, I thought it might be beneficial if I spoke with a veteran that we recently hired.  For purposes of this testimony I will refer to our veteran employee as Bruce.  Bruce is an 11-year veteran who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  He served in multiple capacities including his final duty as lead security for his executive officer.  Bruce saw extensive combat action while in theater and was eventually released from duty in 2007 due to severe injuries he had sustained.  It gave me a profound sense of gratitude and honor to listen to Bruce describe the sacrifices he had made for our country. 

I asked Bruce how he heard about our job openings and why he had applied for one of our positions.  He told me that he had maintained a close relationship with his former executive officer who had retired from the military and taken a position with BAE Systems in Fayetteville, Georgia.  Bruce’s former executive officer had recommended BAE Systems as a strong company with good values.  Bruce also recalled several instances of BAE Systems’ equipment that he had used while on active duty.  Bruce then did an internet search on BAE Systems and found our production associate job posting online. He applied, met all of the selection criteria and joined our team on August 29th this year.

I then asked Bruce what recommendations he might have for the subcommittee.  Bruce hesitated a long moment and he said, “Tell them I would describe how I felt when I left the service in one word - helplessness.”  Bruce went on to tell me that he vividly recalls receiving his military paperwork and being told he was free to leave; but he had no idea what to do next.   He had been provided some resume building assistance but he had no idea where or how to start finding a job, let alone a career.

After listening to Bruce’s story, I would respectfully recommend some attention be given to what is provided in the way of outplacement services for our veterans.   Resume building is one small piece of this process.  There is, however, so much more in the way of career counseling provided by outplacement companies.  These services would provide immeasurable benefit to our veterans.  BAE Systems uses similar companies to provide this much needed service for our employees that are impacted by reductions in force.  The employees that we are no longer able to employ are very appreciative of this service.  I would expect that our veterans would feel the same sense of appreciation should they be offered this assistance as they re-join civilian life.

Chairman Stutzman and distinguished members of the subcommittee, we at BAE Systems are proud to be able to support our fighting men and women, both in combat and in the workplace when they return to life at home.  Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you today.