Boeing May Close Wichita Plant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Boeing Co. said Monday that it is studying the future of its defense plant in Wichita, including the possibility of closing it.

Boeing spokesman Jarrod Bartlett said in a statement that the study of the Boeing Defense, Space & Security's Maintenance, Modifications and Upgrades facility is part of an initiative to address what he calls "the current defense budget environment." The Pentagon has been working this month to prevent $500 billion in automatic, across-the-board defense budget cuts over 10 years if a bipartisan congressional supercommittee can't agree by Nov. 23 on $1.2 trillion or more in deficit reductions over a decade.

"The Wichita facility faces pressures because of product and services contracts that have matured and expired, and limited prospects for future work," the statement said. "We are in the process of engaging key stakeholders — including customers, government officials and union representatives — to share this information as we continue to have open and candid discussions about the challenges we face in the current budget and economic environment."

The statement also said the options being reviewed include "the potential closure of the Wichita site."

The community had hoped the number of jobs at the facility would grow after Boeing won a contract worth at least $35 billion to build 179 refueling tankers. The modification work on the planes is expected to be done at Boeing's Wichita plant. But that facility is facing the end of some programs, such as the international tanker program that supplied refueling tankers to other countries.

Over the summer, Boeing announced it would cut 225 jobs at its Wichita defense plant through the end of this year.

"Boeing has promised publicly and repeatedly in writing that the success in winning the tanker contract would mean '7,500 jobs' in Kansas, including several hundred jobs at Boeing-Wichita for the Tanker Finishing Center," Gov. Sam Brownback and Kansas' congressional delegation said in a statement. "We expect the company to honor that commitment."

The Wichita facility, which specializes in modifying commercial aircraft for military or government operations, has 2,100 employees. Boeing spun off its commercial aircraft operation there several years ago.

Bartlett said he couldn't comment beyond the news release.