The Burlington-Pantex Transfer

  • Posted: Tuesday, June 4, 2024, 8:23 am

This historic image shows a building at Burlington under construction in 1957. The work at the Iowa facility was transferred to Pantex in 1974.
This historic image shows a building at Burlington under construction in 1957. The work at the Iowa facility was transferred to Pantex in 1974.

The early 1970s was a tumultuous time, with the Vietnam War raging and major political upheaval. Americans were struggling with the rising cost of living and a looming gas crisis. The Cold War was still in full swing, and the facilities that actively participated in ensuring the United States’ nuclear security were numerous.

At the time, there were about 30 places that had a role in the work; today less than 10 facilities make up the Nuclear Security Enterprise, including Pantex and Y-12.

At the time, a factory at Burlington, Iowa, was doing assembly and disassembly work, and that site was chosen to be closed and consolidated.

Fifty years ago this year, the mission performed at Burlington was in the process of being moved to Pantex. At the time, both facilities were managed by Mason & Hanger.

“The government did a study to look at cutting costs and consolidate the work into a couple of plants, instead of having it spread around,” said employee Katie P. “One of the reasons Pantex was chosen is it would have cost $30 million in 1974 money to move the work Pantex did up to Burlington, but only $10 million to move the work done at Burlington down here.”

Some of the other advantages that Pantex had were adequate space, updated facilities, better weather, and a larger nearby city—as well as a major advocate in the form of John C. Drummond, for whom the flagship office building at the facility is now named.

Employees made the move in 1974, and among them was Harvey B., who continues to work at Pantex.

Harvey began working at Burlington shortly after graduating college, and met his wife there. Once they made the move to Pantex, a local employee tried to help them get settled in to their new home.

“He gave us a local tour, took us to Lake Meredith. He was proud of this area,” Harvey remembered. “It was different. My wife grew up with trees. Down here, if you want one, you have to plant it. We got home, and [my wife] said, ‘It looked to me like the moon.’”

Today, Pantex is preparing for more change as its management and operating contractor is set to be changed this year. One of the enduring truths at Pantex is the need to adapt to change while continuing to perform the mission without missing a beat.

“Fifty years ago, our mission we still carry out today really got consolidated,” Katie said. “It was a time of change, not only for the U.S., but also for people locally.

“Now, instead of consolidating, we’re growing, getting more duties and getting new people who are becoming part of our family and our culture,” she continued. “We have endured change before, but now we’re in a new era. There is a lot of stuff going on. It’s a different time, but a similar story of change happening then and now.”