December 3, 2013

Boeing: Work from Defense contract won’t be done in Wichita

Boeing Wichita is on track to shut down in late March, a Boeing spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Boeing Wichita is on track to shut down in late March, a Boeing spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Her comments came after questions arose Tuesday after the Department of Defense announced that a Boeing military contract had been granted to the Wichita site.

Boeing’s Wichita facility has been awarded a $75.7 million modification of an existing Air Force contract for the Boeing E-4B Advanced program, the DOD announced this week.

The contract is for sustainment, programmed depot maintenance, modification and related support for the E-4B platform.

The DOD report said that the work was to be done in Wichita and completed by Nov. 30, 2014. But the location of the work was in error, said Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne Johnson-Jones.

The work on the E-4B program is to be done in Oklahoma City and San Antonio, she said.

“The (Boeing Wichita) site is scheduled to be shut down in late March 2014,” Johnson-Jones said.

The last B-52 was recently delivered, and those employees will be transitioning elsewhere, she said.

Boeing announced in January 2012 that it would close its Wichita facility by early 2014 and move work to Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Puget Sound in Washington state. The decision to close was due to high overhead costs at the plant and cuts to the nation’s defense budget, officials said at the time.

Frank Molina, the head of the Machinists union District 70, said he thinks the closure will take longer.

“As far as the time frame, I don’t foresee us closing until at the earliest the middle of the year,” Molina said.

He thinks work is behind schedule on two programs remaining in Wichita.

Two years ago, the facility employed 2,160. That was down to 1,800 a year ago. Boeing has continued to draw down employment in Wichita in 2013. Johnson-Jones declined to give a current figure, saying the number is in constant flux. The Machinists union has said about 230 hourly employees remain at the site.

Since the closure announcement, Boeing has made offers to some employees for jobs in Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Puget Sound. Others have been laid off or have retired.

When it comes to the E-4B contract, the award is the result of a sole-source acquisition, the DOD said. Operations and maintenance funds totaling $24.5 million are being obligated at the time of the award. The contract is through the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

The E-4B serves as a survivable mobile command post for the president, secretary of defense and other top officials. It’s equipped to serve as a post to control U.S. forces in all levels of conflict, including nuclear war.

The four E-4Bs are operated by the 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron of the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha.

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