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Layoff Slips Go to 84 at Boeing Wichita

Boeing Wichita will issue 60-day layoff notices to 84 employees today, the result of program delays and budget issues at the Department of Defense, the company announced Thursday.

The Wichita Eagle

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems officials will continue to monitor the Department of Defense budget, Boeing Wichita general manager Derek McLuckey said in a statement.

"This is a situation that could have impact on our employment levels as the year progresses," McLuckey said.

Boeing spokesman Forrest Gossett declined to say which defense programs are creating the need for staff cuts.

But "we've had a number of changes that have taken place in the last six to eight weeks," Gossett said. "We're responding to what our customers have told us is happening."

The Wichita site employs about 3,670 workers. Those who will receive layoff notices today are primarily workers in Boeing's technical publications group and modification mechanics, Gossett said.

The workers are represented by either the Machinists union or the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace's professional and technical unit. SPEEA Midwest director Bob Brewer said the union plans to talk with Boeing about "future impacts to the work force."

The layoffs will be the second round of cuts recently for the Wichita site. In November, Boeing issued 60-day layoff notices to 250 Wichita workers. Today is their last scheduled work day.

Despite the layoffs, the Wichita site continues to aggressively seek new business, Gossett said.

"We're still committed to building a competitive business," he said.

Earlier this month, Boeing Wichita won two contracts worth more than $35 million from the U.S. Air Force for technical writing and B-52 fleet support.

Defense budgets are under pressure from the Iraq war and the growing federal deficit. The next federal budget and a review of Pentagon programs that's made every four years -- two of the most important documents for the future of any defense program -- will be released in February.

Wichita's key programs include design and upgrades for KC-135 tankers, 767 tankers, the B-52 Stratofortress, the U.S. executive fleet, the airborne laser and international programs.

The airborne laser program, part of a national defense program, could be delayed this year, according to published reports.

And some defense industry analysts say the Pentagon may cancel the B-52 Stand-Off Jammer program. Boeing has bid on the program, which if successful, would mean work for Wichita.