K2 Solutions' military dog contract ends, may lay off 70 workers

By STEVE DEVANE | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: December 4, 2014

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — A Moore County-based company that trains dogs to detect improvised bombs for the military might have to lay off about 70 employees because a government contract is ending this month.

K2 Solutions sent 60-day notices to several dozen employees in late November, said Lane Kjellsen, the company's chairman and CEO.

A letter sent to the state Department of Commerce by K2 Human Resources Director Mike Hinkley said the company is downsizing, which will result in the layoff of 72 employees.

Kjellsen said that figure isn't precisely accurate, but isn't far off. Company officials are trying to find business to replace the government contracts so some of the notices can be rescinded, he said.

"It's a big number, and we're trying to save as many as we can," he said.

K2 has about 300 employees, including more than 100 veterans, according to its website. The company also provides logistics services and experts who can be embedded with deployed units, the website says.

Kjellsen said about three-fourths of the layoffs will occur at K2's dog training facility in Richmond County. The rest will be at the company's headquarters in Southern Pines.

K2 has had about seven contracts with the military since 2009 to provide training for dogs and handlers in detecting Improvised Explosive Devices, Kjellsen said. The company's training allows the dogs to find the IEDs while the soldier or Marine stays a safe distance away.

"These dogs have saved countless lives," he said.

The dogs act like hunters, Kjellsen said.

"Instead of hunting for game, he will hunt for IEDs," he said.

Kjellsen said the government is trying to develop technology to detect IEDs, but has not been successful. Once K2's contract ends, troops will no longer have that capability, he said.

The program will not be easily reconstructed once it ends, Kjellsen said.

"That's my concern on the whole thing," he said.

Kjellsen said the military still identifies IEDs as the number one threat to troops.

"It seems reasonable that we should retain this capability, at least on a small scale," he said.

The military will have some dogs, including some trained by K2, Kjellsen said. But since the handlers of those dogs won't know the proper techniques, they'll have to use a leash on the dogs searching for IEDs, he said.

"These dogs for the last several years have been the most efficient, most effective and most cost beneficial ways to detect IEDs and keep soldiers and Marines safe," he said. "It seems like a bad time to end the program."

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