Vance Training Shifted

In the wake of an ongoing contractor strike at Vance AFB, Okla., the Air Force has decided to temporarily transfer 33 students and instructor pilots from Vance to Randolph and Laughlin Air Force Bases in Texas. They will resume training Monday at their new locations, according to an Air Force statement released Friday evening. The strike by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 898 against CSC Applied Technologies LLC has stopped work on aircraft maintenance and other mission-critical services, effectively placing on hold for the past week flying training for some 500 Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and allied pilots at Vance. In the statement, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said, “I take this issue very seriously and urge all parties to quickly resolve this dispute, as it is impacting our ability to produce pilots in a time of war.” In a June 9 statement, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) expressed concern that a potential transfer of students “could have dire consequences for the future of Vance.” He emphasized, too, that like many lawmakers he wonders if “outsourcing to contractors has gone too far.” The CSC contract is up for review this fall. In a June 11 joint statement with the state’s Congressional delegation, Inhofe said that a recent visit to Enid convinced him that there are legitimate complaints on both sides, but he said, “None of the issues I heard were impassable.” He and the other Oklahoma lawmakers worried that the strike also would adversely affect the workers and the community of Enid, particularly in this still shaky economy, but feared long-term implications for the base if it cannot quickly resume pilot training. They urged creation of a 30-day bridge contract to allow workers to return to work as negotiations continue. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said: “Our state has never experienced a base closure. Our top priority should be to make sure that Vance remains open and active.”