Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Last night the Senate Armed Services Committee concluded its markup of the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill authorizes $726 billion in funding for Department of Defense programs as well as funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and includes authorizations for several South Dakota defense-related projects.

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Thune announced that several of his priorities are included in the bill that directly impact South Dakota in the near term.

"South Dakotans are rightly proud of the contributions our state's personnel and military installations make to our national security," said Thune. "The priorities in this bill will ensure South Dakota helps keep America's men and women in uniform prepared to meet any challenge in defending our country. As this bill is considered by the full Senate in the coming weeks, I will continue to underscore the importance of these provisions."

The bill includes the following items relating to South Dakota:
    B-1 Bomber Provisions:
  • Fully funds $25 million toward B-1 Depot Purchased Equipment Maintenance (DPEM). This was the U.S. Air Force's number one item on its Unfunded Priority list. These funds will specifically support Air Force High Velocity Maintenance (HVM), or "mini PDM" (Programmed Depot Maintenance) initiatives, and other critical functions related to B-1 weapon system readiness.
  • Provides $200 million for B-1 procurement programs along with $33.2 million for B-1 Test and Evaluation Squadron initiatives.
  • Provides $6.7 million for B-1 post production support.
    Military Construction:
  • Provides $12.8 million for a new aircraft maintenance building at Joe Foss Field. These funds will accelerate the construction of an Aircraft Maintenance Facility to replace the older and less efficient maintenance facilities.
  • Provides $12.4 million toward the Ellsworth Maintenance Training Facility. This project will construct a facility to house maintenance training and technical training functions in mission-critical subjects such as jet engine maintenance, B-1 electronic warfare, flight controls system maintenance, avionics and armament systems maintenance, egress systems maintenance, fuel systems maintenance, and electro-environmental training for the base.
  • $25 million for the Watertown Army National Guard Readiness Center.
    Next Generation Bomber:
  • Includes $198.9 million toward funding the Next Generation Bomber program. This funding continues Senator Thune's work on a new and advanced bomber to replace the Air Force's aging fleet, which is essential for continued global deterrence.
    Other items of interest:
  • Includes $3.5 million for two research and development initiatives at South Dakota State University. These funds will allow continued research, development, prototype, demonstration and testing of advanced alternative power technologies, in addition to developing concepts for the next generation of low cost and highly efficient Bio-JP8 fuel.
  • Provides $1 million for research and development initiatives at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. These funds will develop bioprocessing technologies for the sustainable production of high energy density biofuels for the U.S. Air Force.
  • Includes $1.5 million for research for weapons systems repair technologies. These funds will provide for the implementation of a new Aging and Battle Damaged Weapon Systems Repair process. According to the feasibility study, completed in fiscal year 2007, cost savings could be achieved on the order of $300 million annually across the DOD.
Senator Thune proposed several amendments to the bill that were agreed to with broad bipartisan support. Senator Thune advanced an amendment with Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) regarding an important housing privatization initiative affecting several bases, including Ellsworth Air Force Base. Specifically, the Bingaman-Thune amendment expresses the Sense of Congress that the Air Force should continue with its plans to improve 15,000 homes for Air Force personnel and their families by the end of 2010.

"It is essential to provide a high quality of life for our service-members, so that we recruit and retain the best people we can to serve in our armed forces," Thune said. "Improving military housing works toward achieving that goal."

So far, the Air Force has received $7.1 billion in total development investment from the private sector for new housing with a taxpayer contribution of approximately $425 million. Under the Air Force housing privatization plan, 214 new homes would be constructed for personnel at Ellsworth. The amendment was adopted without debate during the Readiness Subcommittee markup earlier in the week.

Senator Thune also introduced and passed an amendment with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) relating to certain nations that are developing strategies to deny U.S. forces freedom of action within strategically vital areas around the world.

"The degrading ability of United States military to maintain superiority in other areas across the globe, such as the western Pacific Ocean, represents a worrisome outlook in terms of our ability to deter and, if necessary, defeat aggression. As potential adversaries seek to deny the ability of U.S. forces to project power into a region, long-range strike systems such as the next generation bomber, will become a more urgent military requirement," said Thune.

The Thune-Lieberman amendment requires a report from the Pentagon addressing the findings of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report regarding anti-access and area-denial capabilities of foreign countries. The report will also include a discussion of current and future U.S. long range strike capabilities in the context of countering anti-access and area-denial strategies of potentially hostile foreign countries.

With regard to Senator Thune's military energy priorities, Senator Thune, along with Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), successfully included an amendment to the bill that moves the Air Force toward using more domestic synthetic fuels. It establishes for the Air Force the goal of certifying its entire fleet on a 50/50 synthetic fuel blend by June 30, 2011. It further sets the goal that the Air Force acquire half of its domestic fuel requirement from a domestically sourced synthetic fuel blend by 2016. Within the amendment, a provision states that synthetic fuels would only be acquired if the fuel is the same cost or less than conventional fuels and if they have a "greener" lifecycle than conventional fuels.

    Broad Highlights:
  • Authorizes a 1.4 percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the uniformed services.
  • Includes $9.1 billion to build 42 Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) aircraft.
  • Authorizes $8.6 billion for the programs of the Missile Defense Agency.
  • Fully funds the President's budget request of $934.4 million for the Army's Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) that replaces the cancelled Future Combat System manned ground vehicle. The bill further supports all of the Army Chief of Staff's unfunded priorities for FY2011.
  • Includes $2.8 billion to buy 34 F-18 aircraft, including 12 EF-18G jammer aircraft and 22 F/A-18E/F fighters. The bill also adds six additional F/A-18E/F aircraft to keep production at 40 aircraft to take advantage of better prices throughout a multiyear procurement contract.
  • Supports the full funding of $3.4 billion for the development, testing, production, and sustainment of all the Services' Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.
  • Authorizes fiscal year 2011 active duty end strengths for the Army of 569,400; the Marine Corps of 202,100; the Air Force of 332,200; and the Navy of 328,700.

    Don't Ask Don't Tell Amendment
  • The bill includes an amendment that would repeal the "Don't ask, Don't Tell" law. Currently, under direction of the Secretary of Defense, the Department is undergoing a review of how repeal would affect the military and how it would be implemented. This bill would implement repeal upon completion of the Defense Departments review and upon certification from the President, Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the change in policy will not affect combat readiness or unit cohesion. This means that Congress has decided to set in motion a repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law without input from service-members and without the benefit of the DOD review's conclusions.
"I believe it is in the best interest of our military to allow the DOD to complete its review of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, before Congress injects politics into the process," said Thune.

Senator Thune is a member of the Armed Services Committee and is the ranking Republican on the Airland Subcommittee, which oversees Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps tactical aviation programs in addition to Army programs.