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Troops Help Fill In for Striking Djibouti Workers

STUTTGART, Germany -- Local employees remain on strike at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, and servicemembers are having to fill in on a range of support jobs at the U.S. military hub in eastern Africa.

Troops have been asked to help man the chow line and help with base maintenance as some 600 Djiboutians continue to strike in connection with a contract dispute with the firm KBR, which had plans for a work force reduction, according to the Navy.

"On occasion, servicemembers are used to perform tasks covered by contracts," said Lt. Cmdr. Rob Johnson, a Navy spokesman. "The services performed by military members are being tracked and the contract includes provisions to take deductions for services not provided, which are required by the contract. The contract continues to be monitored for non-performance."`

In June, KBR took over responsibility for base support services at Lemonnier from another contractor. The $35 million contract awarded to KBR cost the military roughly half the amount of the old contract. The new contract also has a provision that allows the military to deduct costs if KBR is unable to carry out all the services it has promised, Johnson said.

"On one occasion, 24 military personnel augmented the galley staff to provide food service attendant functions for approximately two hours on July 5," he said. "We tracked the hours of military augmented support and the invoice to KBR will be reduced accordingly."

Local workers, upset over KBR's plan to cut support staff from 1,000 to 600, have been staging daily demonstrations outside the base since late June.

Roughly 97 local and third-country staffers operating under a separate contract continue to work at Lemonnier.

Johnson said the protests are focused on the workers' dispute with KBR and that the demonstrators are not opposed to the U.S. military mission.

Last week, KBR stated that it was working closely with Djibouti labor and foreign affairs officials to resolve the labor dispute.

Camp Lemonnier supports roughly 4,000 U.S. and allied military and civilian personnel along with about 1,100 local and third country nationals, according to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Web site.

The camp, the U.S. military's only official and permanent base in Africa, serves as the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, which is focused on countering violent extremists in Somalia and around the Horn of Africa.

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