Aug 01 2018
Heitkamp Helps Pass Bipartisan Defense Bill to Support ND Security Missions, Keep ND Communities Strong & Safe
Legislation Includes Strengthened Support for Minot’s Nuclear Mission, Grand Forks’ Global Hawk Mission & Military Research, & National Guard Benefits
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today voted with a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate to pass a bill which authorizes U.S. Department of Defense funding levels and helps set defense policy. The bill will now go to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Heitkamp, a co-founder of the Senate Defense Communities Caucus and a member of the Senate Long-Range Strike Caucus and the Senate ICBM Coalition, fought for strong support for North Dakota’s national security missions, including B-52 and nuclear modernization, military construction projects at Minot Air Force Base and in Fargo, the Global Hawk and MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft missions, as well as investments to make sure veterans and active-duty servicemembers are fairly compensated and honored for their service.
The bipartisan legislation authorizes strong federal funding for the modernization of Minot’s B-52 long-range strike bomber fleet— including engine replacements, which Heitkamp fought to secure. Earlier this summer, Heitkamp toured Minot Air Force Base with U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)— ranking member on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee— to push for support in this bill for maintenance and modernization of Minot Air Force Base’s nuclear assets, including its B-52 bombers and ICBMs.
“This bill’s strong support for North Dakota’s national security missions is a testament to our state’s proud role in protecting our nation and keeping American families safe,” Heitkamp said. “From modernizing our B-52s and ICBMs to ensuring our servicemembers and veterans get the pay and benefits they deserve, this bipartisan bill is a boost for North Dakota’s defense priorities and the brave men and women who serve on the front lines of our national defense. We need a tough, smart national security strategy to protect against a variety of threats, and this bipartisan bill gives our military the support it needs to get the jobs done while helping keep North Dakota’s communities strong and safe.”
The bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) boosts the national security role and strategic deterrence mission across North Dakota by providing:
Minot Air Force Base
- Strong support for B-52 modernization. The bill authorizes $295 million for B-52 squadrons, $96 million for procurement, and $13 million for post-production support. The bill also requires a report to Congress from the Secretary of the Air Force on the long-term modernization of the B-52, which will allow Congress to continue to provide oversight of modernization initiatives Heitkamp championed. Heitkamp has been a strong advocate for Minot’s B-52s. In January, Heitkamp led a bipartisan group of senators in calling for new or upgraded engines on the Air Force’s B-52s while the next generation of bombers is being developed. Following Heitkamp’s push, the Air Force announced that Minot Air Force Base will continue to host bomber missions and that the president’s budget included more than double the previous funding levels for B-52 modernization.
- Military construction to enhance security force facilities at Minot AFB. The bill authorizes $66 million to construct a consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Aircraft Maintenance Shelter, Aircraft Alert Hangar, and Operations facility for security forces at Minot AFB. This will address current shortfalls, improve responsiveness to defend against threats to ICBM facilities, and enable the needed introduction of replacement helicopters for the outdated UH-1N helicopters currently in use.
- Continued emphasis on modernizing North Dakota’s nuclear assets. The bill continues to advance modernization of the nuclear enterprise. During her extensive tour of the base’s facilities in May, Heitkamp pushed for additional funding to address current shortfalls in security and to improve personnel responsiveness. The bill authorizes $172 million for intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fuze modernization. The legislation also authorizes funding for the development and acceleration of the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, which will replace Minot’s current ICBMs, and the Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) weapon, the replacement air-launched cruise missile for the B-52. The bill includes $288 million for the UH-1N replacement program, and language that would prevent any reduction in the responsiveness or alert level of the ICBM force.
Grand Forks Air Force Base:
- Sustained emphasis on the RQ-4 Global Hawk mission at Grand Forks AFB. The bill authorizes $222 million for Air Force RQ-4 research and development, $129 million for modifications, and $41 million for post-production support. The funding is over $100 million above the President’s request to enable an increase in the number of Global Hawks equipped to perform the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node mission in which the aircraft serves as a communications relay for deployed warfighters, a critical capability in high demand by combatant commands.
North Dakota’s National Guard and Reserve members
- Making sure veterans and active-duty servicemembers are fairly compensated and honored for their service. The bill makes continued progress on ensuring active duty reservists receive the fair pay and retirement benefits they’ve earned. Specifically, the bill includes high deployment allowance eligibility and protection from reduction in pay for mobilized federal civilian employees. Heitkamp has consistently pushed for increased benefits parity, including through legislation she cosponsored that was signed into law to promote equal access to educational opportunities.
- Military construction for a new National Guard Readiness Center in Fargo. The bill authorizes $32 million for a National Guard Readiness Center in Fargo. This will accommodate the needs of the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 191st Military Police Company, and Company D, 1st Battalion, 112th Aviation Regiment, enhancing readiness by increasing space for these units to conduct training and exercises. This facility will decrease the time Guardsmen must drive to multiple locations to maintain and manage unit equipment, allowing for more efficient use of valuable training time.
- Continued support for the Air National Guard 119th Wing’s MQ-9 Reaper mission. The bill continues to authorize funding for the MQ-9s operated by the Happy Hooligans in Fargo.
- Improvements to the National Guard officer promotion process. The bill provides the Department of Defense the authority to adjust the date of recognition for promotion of Army National Guard and Air National Guard officers, a priority Heitkamp discussed with North Dakota Deputy Adjutant General Brigadier General Becklund earlier this year. This will allow officers who experience a delay in the federal recognition process to receive their newly earned benefits and the recognition of new rank in expedited time. Heitkamp recently met with the president’s nominee for Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserves Affairs to push for this authority.