Tester secures priorities in defense bill

Sidney Herald

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s Montana priorities today led him to block the president’s proposed increase in TRICARE fees and fully fund the nation’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile fleet.

Active-duty troops, retirees and their families receive health insurance through TRICARE. Tester teamed up with a bipartisan group of senators to reject the president’s plan to raise fees for its health services.

Tester also worked across the aisle to make sure that the ICBMs at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls are fully funded. Malmstrom maintains and secures 150 ICBMs across north-central Montana.

Tester’s provisions were part of a Senate Appropriations Committee Defense bill that passed unanimously.

“I’m not going to let the president balance the budget on the back of Montana’s hard-working military men and women,” Tester said. “This bill holds folks in Washington accountable and keeps our country safe by preserving our ICBMs, which are the most cost-effective part of our national defense strategy.”

The bill also prohibits the Air Force from relocating the Montana Air National Guard’s F-15s, meaning that the mission and the airplanes will remain in Great Falls at least through next fall.

The committee singled out a Tester-backed priority when it pushed the Defense Department to continue its efforts to improve its military service awards database. The department first moved to establish the database after Tester called for better record keeping of awards earlier this year to better ensure veterans receive their due recognition.

Tester also specifically added provisions to the bill encouraging the Defense Department to continue using Montana’s valuable airspace and recognizing the work of the University of Montana’s Defense Critical Language and Culture Program in preparing the nation’s warfighters.

The bill also raises active duty military pay by 1.7 percent and cuts funding for outdated or unnecessary military programs.

Tester, a member of the bipartisan Senate ICBM Coalition, this week reminded a top Air Force official that Malmstrom’s ICBM’s are the “centerpiece of America’s defense strategy.”