Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) today praised the Air Force's announcement that it plans to alter its previous decision to ground B-1B Lancer bombers at Ellsworth and once again begin flying B-1 training missions on a limited basis starting May 1, 2013. On April 12, 2013, the Air Force had announced that it planned to ground B-1s at Ellsworth for the remainder of the federal fiscal year through October 1, 2013, due to the deep defense cuts in the sequester.
"I am pleased the Air Force leadership has decided to begin flying B-1s again on a limited basis. This is a step in the right direction," said Thune. "Ellsworth Air Force Base is a key part of our national defense, and the B-1 aircraft have been integral to operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya over the past decade. The grounding of the B-1s raised significant concerns regarding our nation's combat readiness. Although I am pleased with the reinstatement of limited flights so that our crews and aircraft can remain active, my biggest concern with the president's sequester plan continues to be the deep cuts made to our military. That is why I have supported legislation that replaces the sequester with smarter, targeted cuts elsewhere in the budget and have also supported providing the administration with increased flexibility in implementing the sequester to make cuts to lower-priority programs to lessen the impact on our national defense. I will continue working with Ellsworth and Air Force officials to ensure we continue to fully prepare and support the men and women at Ellsworth."
Thune is a cosponsor of the Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2013 (S. 263), which would replace the sequester with a reduction in the federal workforce through attrition. Thune also voted for S. 16, which would have given the Department of Defense more flexibility to make spending cuts without hurting military readiness.