Senator John ThuneAmericans are getting a clearer picture of the Obama Administration's budget proposal, and people across South Dakota and the nation are seeing that it unfortunately spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much. Increased taxation and borrowing are distressing enough, but the Administration's plan to raid critical national security projects to fund a dubious domestic agenda is irresponsible.
Recent news reports indicate that the Administration may be planning to terminate the Next Generation Bomber program. This is particularly concerning because nearly half of our current bomber fleet dates back to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and modernization is needed to counter emerging threats. The B-1 can be upgraded and it has proven to be a highly durable and adaptable aircraft, but it still lacks the vital stealth technology that provides a greater level of protection in defended airspace.
The need for the Next Generation Bomber is urgent. Although our current wars are being fought in undefended airspace, the conflicts of the near-term future will likely feature heavily defended airspace. The Next Generation Bomber is an important part of a 21st century strategy to protect our interests worldwide, both as a deterrent and as a military asset. Under current plans, the Air Force plans to field the Next Generation Bomber by 2018.
Beyond greater national security concerns, the Next Generation Bomber program is potentially important for South Dakota. On January 16, 2008, the Air Force publicized its weapon system "road map," which is a comprehensive strategic vision for the nation's air, space, and cyber power. The weapon system road map cited Ellsworth Air Force Base as one of four potential future bed-down locations for the new bomber. Hosting the Next Generation Bomber fleet would protect Ellsworth's status as a premier Air Force facility far into the future.
As the new Ranking Republican Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee's Airland Subcommittee, I will continue working to protect the Next Generation Bomber program and to promote future missions for Ellsworth and other South Dakota military facilities.
Terminating the Next Generation Bomber program is only one example of the Administration's apparent belief that the Defense budget is a piggy bank that can be raided to fund other things. This approach is short-sighted and dangerously undermines our national security. Congress has a responsibility to ensure that our national defense interests are properly funded, and I will continue fighting to do so.