Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) today expressed deep concern about the Air Force's decision to ground B-1B Lancer bombers at Ellsworth Air Force Base for the remainder of the federal fiscal year due to the deep defense cuts in President Obama's sequester. In a recent statement, Ellsworth officials cited that the across-the-board spending cuts have forced the Air Force to cut 45,000 training hours from its operations, grounding the aircrafts through September.
"One of my greatest concerns with the president's sequester plan and its disproportionate cuts to the Department of Defense was the impact it would have on our military, which is why I have supported legislation in the Senate to replace the sequester with smarter cuts elsewhere in the budget," said Thune. "I have reached out to Air Force leadership requesting additional information on this unprecedented move and the impact it will have on our combat readiness. The B-1s and their crews stationed at Ellsworth have played a significant role in the nation's ability to project power and have provided vital support in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. The men and women at Ellsworth have proven themselves time and time again as the best we have to offer and we should be supporting them, not making it more difficult for them to do their jobs."
The Continuing Resolution (H.R. 933), which funded the government for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year, included the 2013 Department of Defense (DoD) appropriations bill, which restored $10 billion to the DoD's operations and maintenance budget. 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 DoD more flexibility to make spending cuts without hurting military readiness.