WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today issued the following statement after the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill contains numerous priorities that benefit South Dakota and the future B-21 bomber mission at Ellsworth Air Force Base, including authorization for $5.3 billion for continued aircraft development and initial procurement and $396 million for the construction of three new facilities on the base. The NDAA also includes a 5.2 percent pay raise for servicemembers, requires the Pentagon to create a plan to counter cartels’ human and drug trafficking on the border, and prioritizes military modernization to combat the growing threat from China. Thune recently spoke on the Senate floor about the NDAA’s importance to the men and women at Ellsworth Air Force Base and to the advancement of the future B-21 bomber mission.
“The NDAA is one of the most important measures Congress passes every year, and I’m pleased that the Senate passed it today with overwhelming bipartisan support,” said Thune. “The bill strengthens our national security and Ellsworth Air Force Base’s position in defending it, addresses concerns about U.S. military readiness, and provides support for Ukraine in its war with Russia. I remain committed to ensuring that Ellsworth Air Force Base and its surrounding communities have everything they need for the B-21 bomber mission so Ellsworth can continue to serve as one of our nation’s essential military assets for decades to come.”
NDAA priorities for South Dakota include:
- $396 million for B-21 military construction, including:
- Fuel System Maintenance Dock, $75 million
- Phase Hangar, $160 million
- Weapons Generation Facility, $160 million
- $5.31 billion for B-21 development and procurement, including:
- Research, development, test, and evaluation of the B-21 Raider, $2.325 billion
- B-21 procurement, $1.617 billion
- Advance B-21 procurement, $708 million
- $5.25 million to complete National Guard Readiness Center
- BG Dean Mann Sioux Falls Readiness Center, $5.25 million
- Continued procurement of long-range munitions used by the B-1 bomber and future B-21, including:
- Joint Air-Surface Standoff Missile, $1.685 billion
- Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, $187.7 million
- Long-Range Standoff Weapon, $958.2 million
Critical Minerals University Affiliated Research Center (UARC)
The bill includes a provision for the Department of Defense to create a UARC for critical minerals to focus on applied research, commercialization, and workforce development with schools like South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
The bill includes a provision to bolster Department of Defense engagement in quantum information science and workforce development by utilizing existing partnerships, scholarships, and research programs within the department.
Equipping Ground Forces with Small Drones
The bill requires the Department of Defense to develop a strategy to equip ground combat units with small drones or unmanned aerial systems like those being put to use in Ukraine, especially the quadcopters with payload release mechanisms that have been used to notable effect against Russian armor.
Strategy on Attritable Decoys
The bill’s report language requires the Department of Defense to create a comprehensive strategy on the use of attritable decoys in the Indo-Pacific, noting that deception activities, including the use of decoys, provide cost-effective options for complicating adversary decision making.
National American Indian Veterans, Inc (NAIV) Congressional Charter
The bill includes an amendment introduced by Thune and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) that would grant a federal charter to the NAIV.