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Monday, June 23, 2014

Boeing closure a security issue? Moran, Pompeo ask for Air Force review

By Molly McMillin
The Wichita Eagle

Sen. Jerry Moran and U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo are asking the Secretary of the Air Force to study whether Boeing’s closure in Wichita will create a national security issue.

“We write to inquire about any potential degradation of our national security because of this action,” Moran and Pompeo wrote in a letter last week to Michael Donley, the Air Force secretary.

Boeing announced Jan. 4 that it planned to close its defense facility in Wichita by the end of 2013.

Wichita works on programs requiring highly specialized security clearances, known as Yankee White. The clearances include extensive, costly background checks.

“The Wichita community holds an overwhelming number of these clearances, and the Boeing facility is specially designed to accommodate these programs,” the letter said. “Trying to re-create this capacity elsewhere, during a time of continuing military conflict, concerns us from a national security standpoint.”

Boeing spokesman Forrest Gossett said the company is aware of the security requirements and is “committed to meeting those requirements for our customers.”

Wichita does work on VC-25 aircraft, commonly known as Air Force One, and the E-4B fleet, which serves as the National Airborne Operations Center for the president, secretary of defense and the joint chiefs of staff during times of any national security risk.

With Boeing Wichita’s closure, maintenance, modification and support of that work will move to San Antonio. And finishing work that was to come to Wichita on the Air Force tanker program will go to the Puget Sound area in Washington state.

Boeing’s leaving Wichita has many ramifications, Pompeo said in an e-mail.

“The loss of over 2,000 jobs is first and foremost in my mind. But as a military veteran and now a member of Congress, I have repeatedly taken an oath to protect this nation,” he said in the e-mail. “It is important for the Pentagon to review Boeing’s decision and determine whether shifting work on the VC-25 and other programs … presents any risks to our nation’s security.”

The letter asks for a review of the changes and information of any national security implications surrounding a move of the work.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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