Issue Position: Defense
During these times it's critical that we have a strong national defense. We must ensure that our troops at home and abroad have the tools they need to protect freedom and democracy across the globe. I'm committed to working together to ensure our military and our men and women in uniform have what they need to do their jobs.
Protecting Malmstrom Air Force Base
As a member of the Air Force and Space Power Caucus in Congress, I have fought hard to keep Malmstrom mission secure. The 341st Space Wing currently boasts an impressive 99 percent readiness capability for the current ICBM Minuteman III mission. I've worked to obtain funding that will expand that mission and I believe that Malmstrom has a strong opportunity to look to the future. I feel confident as I work to secure fiscal year 2007 Military Construction funds for the base that funds appropriated to Malmstrom last year solidified the base's strong future. This included:
* Physical Fitness Center -$13.5 million. This facility is vital for the health, moral and welfare of the military personnel; readying them for their missions.
* Family Housing Units - $68,971,000. These 296 units accommodate the growing needs of military families and number of personnel stationed at the base.
I continue to work with Great Falls, Cascade County, and Malmstrom to help provide exceptional resources to the base. This past July, I visited the base and in October I traveled to a missile alert facility which is part of the 564th squadron. Last spring I led a delegation to the Pentagon where we met with high level Air Force and Department of Defense Officials.
This year, the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) has kept me busy. I have approached the QDR with the same intensity that I approached BRAC so that we can protect our missile mission in Montana. In March, I returned to the Pentagon to meet with Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and to discuss the future of Malmstrom.
On January 23, 2006, I hosted a meeting of missile state Senators with General James Cartwright, the Commander of STRATCOM. He advised Secretary Rumsfeld on the future of Malmstrom's missiles as part of the QDR. I have had follow up phone calls with Cartwright and on March 1, 2006, I met with General Tom Deppe, the Commander of the 20th Air Force. Deppe is in charge of all three missile bases (Malmstrom, Minot and FE Warren). I continue to support fully funding the modernization of the Minuteman III's, but I am concerned about the fact that the QDR will remove 50 Minuteman III ICBMs from America's nuclear arsenal.
We need to actively look for replacement resources and missions for Malmstrom. I am pleased that the Secretary of the Air Force sent a team to Malmstrom on April 2006 to do an "attributes study" of the base. This will be a good way to determine new missions for the base. There is so much potential at that base for a new flying mission or a new Air Force Space Command mission. I will continue to fight for Malmstrom's future.
My Work to Boost the Nation's Defense
In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, I've vigorously supported legislation to make defense officials better equipped to combat terrorism.
Each year through the Defense Appropriations bill, I bring millions of dollars to Montana businesses for defense contracting through this piece of legislation, and you can bet that I'll continue to push for funding for Montana projects. Last December, the fiscal year 2006 Defense Appropriations bill was passed, and it included $80 million in federal funds for Montana.
It's important that we consistently secure money for defense-related projects in the state. Some projects that have received funding include: Bozeman's Ligocyte for research to combat biological warfare terrorism, a weapons delivery system used by military ground vehicles and helicopters, MSE Technologies in Butte for development of the MARIAH Hypersonic Wind Tunnel Project, and research projects with NASA.
I also helped secure an additional $2.8 million for an emergency wireless communication network amongst the Montana National Guard bases. The funds will allow the National Guard to hire engineers to design the emergency wireless communications system, and to purchase equipment such as dishes, repeaters and towers necessary to provide wireless, uninterrupted communications amongst the Montana National Guard bases. This satellite network can eventually tie into the Northern Tier Interoperability Project.
Current and Upcoming Defense Issues
I plan to continue to support the ongoing modernization of the ICBMs. There are currently 10 different modernization plans for the 200 Minuteman III ICBMs at Malmstrom. I've supported efforts to speed up some of these programs in order to keep the base's mission strong and secure.
I'll meet with new Malmstrom Base Commander, Colonel Everett H. Thomas, to welcome him to Montana and to discuss new mission possibilities for the base which will mean more jobs and opportunities for our state.
I'll ensure the Montana National Guard is getting what it needs from benefits to getting the equipment that they need to help provide our men and women in uniform with the tools required to succeed in their missions.
My efforts are focused on maintaining Montana's Air National Guard F-16 mission and on attracting the next generation of fighter jetslike the F-22 or the F-35to the state. This summer I met with Lt. General Daniel James III, Director of the Air National Guard, to discuss this expansion.
I'm also fighting hard and working closely with the Department of Homeland Security Air and Marine Operations to get a DHS airbase in Great Falls in the next year.
Current and Upcoming Homeland Security Issues
I'm fighting hard and working closely with the Department of Homeland Security Air and Marine Operations to get the DHS airbase successfully up and running in Great Falls this year. I am pleased that the Appropriations Conference Committee has approved my request for $18.3 million to get our air base operational one year earlier than the Department of Homeland Security had planned. My work is not done yet. These funds will open the base and have it operating 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. I will work to get the base operational 24/7.
Frankly, I think too little attention is given to the great responsibility that Montana bears to secure the Northern Border. I am pleased that the senate has included additional border security funding in the Defense Supplemental this year.
Additionally, $19.8 billion was also included in the supplemental for Hurricane Katrina Relief and I voted for that measure. I traveled to the gulf coast region days after the hurricane hit. Words can not describe what I saw there and there is still so much work that needs to be done.
Last year there were huge cuts in state and local first responder grants. First, the President proposed cutting the total budget for first responders by 20 percent. Second, he proposed a fundamental re-alignment of those grants in favor of what are called urban high threat areas' and critical infrastructures like dams and nuclear power plants that might be vulnerable. Those cuts are unacceptable, especially for rural states like Montana, whose first responders rely almost entirely on this assistance for their terrorism preparedness efforts.
That's why I fought these cuts. I'm please to say that we've won the first round. The Senate Homeland Security Appropriations bill rejects the change in distribution. I will to continue to fight to ensure Montana's first responders have the resources they need.
I'm pleased that last year the Appropriators did not adopt the changes the Administration proposed, and that they have added some of those dollars back to the total budget for state first responder grants, in essence splitting the difference between urban and rural states. I am working for additional funding in the coming year.
We're going to have to keep careful watch over all Homeland Security dollars over the next couple of years, as these dollars will get more scare--to make sure we here in Montana get the security improvementslike interoperable communicationsthat we need most.