U.S. Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement after the Senate blocked the Air Force from relocating the Montana Air National Guard's F-15s. Today's action ensures that the mission and the fighter planes will remain in Great Falls into 2013:
"Today's vote guarantees Montana Airmen will keep flying. Our Airmen have a sterling reputation and deserve the certainty of a manned flying mission in Great Falls. I'll continue making sure they have one."
Tester secured similar language in a Senate Appropriations Committee Defense bill in August. That measure passed out of committee, but did not come before the full Senate. Today's vote means the plan to keep the F-15s in Montana for at least six more months will become law. The president has indicated he will sign the bill.
Tester also worked closely with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley earlier this year to prevent any aircraft transfers through December with the expectation that Congress would pass a provision similar to what the Senate approved today. The bill approved by the Senate keeps the aircraft in Montana through at least the end of March 2013.
Tester and fellow Montana Senator Max Baucus have long-pressed key Defense Department officials to keep the F-15s in Great Falls unless another manned flying mission could be found that benefits the state and keeps jobs in Great Falls. In arguing for a manned flying mission, the Senators have highlighted MANG's excellent record, Montana's vast airspace, and other factors.
The provision passed as part of a larger bill aimed to keep the government operating into next year.