Early retirements may significantly reduce the number of Hill Air Force Base employees who are laid off next year, according to Hill spokesman Len Barry. Meanwhile, Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, says the Air Force owes it to those laid of to justify the numbers.

Air Force officers announced Wednesday that Hill will reduce its civilian work force by up to 1,427 employees in fiscal 1991. Most of the cuts will be made in March 1991, according to Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah.The employees are among 7,500 to be laid off throughout the Air Force's Logistics Command. Only one base is to lose more, Tinker AFB, Okla., which will cut 2,196 employees.

Hill's number includes 82 employees who are scattered among six Strategic Air Command bases. That would seem to leave 1,345 jobs to be cut - but Hill officials say early retirement could reduce the number.

"Based on past experience, command officials predict about 12 percent, or 1,500 employees (throughout the Logistics Command) might choose to exercise the early retirement option," said Barry.

Under the program, employees 50 or older with 20 years of federal service can retire. Those going for early retirement will have a small reduction in retirement benefits, he said.

"Also, those electing to take the early out option through Nov. 30 will still be able to take advantage of of the federal retirement lump-sum option," Barry added. This allows the retirees to collect their money in two lump payments, with a reduced monthly annuity.

The lump-sum option will be discontinued for five years, starting Dec. 1.

Garn said he expected that 1,298 job cuts would be made at Hill because of previous reductions in the Air Force budget and the phasing out of the F-4 fighter.

"That bad news came earlier in the year," he said. "However, this new number has yet to be justified."

He said the Air Force may have a good explanation for the increased number of layoffs, but they weren't prepared to explain them at the time of the announcement. That is not fair to Hill's dedicated employees, he said.

"The individual workers who will lose their jobs deserve credible answers."

He called the announcement terribly disappointing but said it is not a surprise because Congress insists on making deep cuts in national defense program.

"These cuts not only affect programs, they affect people through job losses," he said.

"It is not the Air Force which is solely responsible for these cuts. It is Congress."

He noted that he voted against reducing the Air Force's inventory of aircraft and missiles. It is this drop that has forced the layoffs.