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U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today applauded the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2022. Thune noted that the bill contains numerous priorities that benefit South Dakota and the future B-21 bomber mission at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
NDAA priorities for South Dakota include:
- $2.87 billion for B-21 development
- $47 million for a B-21 Field Training Detachment Facility
- $36 million for a B-21 Mission Operations Planning Facility
- $65 million for a B-21 Washrack and Maintenance Hangar
- $24 million for a B-21 additions to the flight simulator facility
- $70 million for a B-21 Formal Training Unit/Aircraft Maintenance Unit
- $41 million for a B-21 two-bay Low-Observable Restoration Facility
- $9.8 million for an F-16 Mission Training Center at Joe Foss Field
- $15 million for a South Dakota Guard Readiness Center in Sioux Falls
- Preservation of B-1 maintenance and operational squadrons through at least fiscal year 2023 or until their replacement by B-21 units
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, I am pleased that today we will finally move to a vote on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.
“Thanks to Democrats’ focus on their reckless Build Back Better tax-and-spending spree, consideration of the NDAA – one of the most important bills we consider every year – was delayed for months.
“And of course once we finally got onto the bill, Democrats rushed the process.
“Senators of both parties filed a total of 1,000 amendments on this bill, but not one of those amendments received a vote on the Senate floor.
“But at least we’re finally here, set to pass this critical legislation.
“And I am pleased that Republicans were able to strengthen this bill in committee and in the so-called pre-conference negotiations.
“This includes removing troublesome provisions like “red flag” laws that would summarily suspend the Second Amendment rights of our men and women in uniform.
“Thanks in large part to Republican efforts, the final bill is $25 billion above President Biden’s inadequate budget request.
“We’ve made a lot of progress over the past several years on rebuilding our military, which – after years of underfunding and budgetary uncertainty, combined with heavy operational demands – had been left under-equipped, under-manned, and under-prepared to meet the threats of the 21st century.
“The situation had gotten so bad that in 2018 the bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission released a report warning that our readiness had eroded to the point where we might struggle to win a war against a major power like Russia or China.
“An especially chilling warning considering the mounting destabilization from both of these countries today.
“And the commission noted that we would be especially vulnerable if we were ever called on to fight a war on two fronts.
“But, as I said, over the past several years we’ve made a lot of progress on restoring military readiness.
“Unfortunately, President Biden’s inadequate budget request threatened to undo some of that progress.
“So I’m very pleased that thanks in large part to Republican efforts, Democrats and Republicans have agreed on a final number that will continue our reinvestment in our military so that our men and women in uniform will have the resources they need to address the threats of the 21st century.
“With both China and Russia flexing their military power – and the growing danger of a further Russian invasion of Ukraine – it is critically important that we ensure that our nation is always prepared to defend itself and our vital national interests, whatever the threat.
“And on the subject of Ukraine, I am very pleased that the final bill we’ll vote on today includes an additional $50 million in military assistance for Ukraine.
“Ukraine has spent years dealing with a Russian invasion that threatens to push further into its sovereign territory, and we should be supporting the efforts of this free nation to defend itself from Russian aggression.
“Mr. President, I am particularly proud to announce that this year’s NDAA contains the necessary funding to continue essential preparation for the B-21 mission at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
“We found out in June of this year that Ellsworth had officially been named Main Operating Base 1 for the future B-21 bomber – ‘Home of the Raider.’
“This designation not only means that Ellsworth will be the first base to host the B-21 Raider, but that it will also host the formal training unit and the first operational squadron.
“The stealth B-21 bomber will eventually replace the Air Force’s B-1s, which have been a proven workhorse within Global Strike Command but must be divested to free up capacity and resources for an even more agile and capable bomber fleet.
“Once operational, the B-21 Raider will be a critical part of our nation’s long-range strike capabilities and nuclear deterrent well into the future.
“And I am incredibly proud that South Dakota and Ellsworth were chosen to serve as the first operating base for the B-21s.
“When I first came to the Senate, the outlook for Ellsworth wasn’t so rosy.
“I had barely arrived here in the Senate when Ellsworth was placed on the Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, list.
“It was an all-hands effort by the congressional delegation and Ellsworth and state and community leaders to make the case to the Bush administration and the BRAC Commission to remove Ellsworth from the closure list.
“Many thought South Dakota might not have the clout to make this stand – that we didn’t wield enough influence.
“We were only given about 12 percent odds of pulling through.
“But we were determined that we weren’t going to lose Ellsworth.
“And we stood our ground and won the day.
“Ellsworth was removed from the BRAC list that August.
“And we got right to work on building up the base so that we would never again find ourselves in the same position.
“In 2007, we saw the Air Force Financial Services Center open at Ellsworth.
“2011 saw the arrival of the 89th Attack Squadron, and its command and control stations for MQ-9 Reapers.
“And in 2015 a decade-long mission paid off with the quadrupling of the training air space for the base.
“The Powder River Training Complex is now the largest training air space in the continental United States and can be used for large-force exercises that draw combat aircraft from across the country.
“It’s also well-suited for B-21 training – which is undoubtedly one of the reasons that Ellsworth was chosen as the first home of the Raider.
“And I am committed to ensuring that Ellsworth has everything it needs for its new mission, so that it can continue to serve as one of our nation’s essential military assets for decades to come.
“To that end, I worked to ensure that this year’s NDAA contained not only full funding for B-21 development, but full funding for the first of many equipment and support facilities that will be needed for the B-21 mission at Ellsworth, including a low-observable coating restoration facility, a wash rack and maintenance hangar, expanding the flight simulator facility, and more.
“It's imperative that these and the follow-on military construction projects at Ellsworth stay on pace to ensure that the B-21, once fielded, can begin operations alongside the current B-1 mission at Ellsworth to enable a smooth transition from one mission to the next.
“This NDAA also ensures adequate support for our B-1s in South Dakota, Texas, and deployed on Bomber Task Force missions so that they have the resources they need until they are replaced by the B-21.
“I will continue to do everything I can here in Congress to support our B-1s at Ellsworth and advance the B-21 mission.
“Mr. President, providing for our nation’s defense is one of our most serious responsibilities as members of Congress.
“We have an obligation to ensure that our nation is prepared to meet any threat, whether the danger comes from terrorism, rogue states, or major powers.
“And we have an obligation to ensure that our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to confront the threats we ask them to face.
“I am frustrated that it took us so long to move to consideration of this year’s NDAA.
“But I am happy that we did at least manage to secure a solid piece of legislation.
“And I look forward to voting for this bill later today.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”