KULR8: Senate passes National Defense Authorization Act, includes investments into Malmstrom AFB, Montana Air National Guard

by Meredith Depping

HELENA- A bill that includes a number of important provisions that will strengthen military bases across the U.S. passed the Senate Thursday, July 23.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will expand services for servicemembers, veterans and military families and includes investments into Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana Air National Guard.

The 2021 NDAA sets funding levels and policies for the Department of Defense, and in addition to providing a 3.1 present pay raise to service members, the bill will also provide hazard pay and 180 days of medical care for National Guard and Reserve Servicemembers deployed to fight on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A number of investments in the maintenance of our country’s ICBM force is included in the 2021 NDAA, including the ones at Malmstrom according to a release from Senator Jon Tester:

  • $1.5 billion for research and development of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), our nation’s future nuclear deterrent program. This money is also authorized to begin the construction and transition from current Minuteman III missile systems to the GBSD system.
  • $25 million authorized for the construction of the Weapons Storage and Maintenance Facility at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
  • $194 million to fully support the replacement of the Air Force’s UH-1N Huey with the MH-139 Grey Wolf.
  • $47 million for procurement of Minuteman III modernization to ensure the viability of our nation’s current strategic deterrent.
  • $50 million to support the Defense Community Infrastructure Program which will provide grants, conclude cooperative agreements, and supplemental funds available under other federal programs to assist states and local governments in addressing deficiencies in community infrastructure projects or facilities that are located outside of military installations but that support military installations.
  • $400 million for ICBM modernization research, development, test and evaluation.

The legislation has secured the Montana Air National Guard $26 million for procurement for C-130 modification and upgrades and $45 million for C-130 research, development, testing, and evaluation.

Legislation requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide benefits to veterans suffering from conditions related to Agent Orange exposure is also included in the NDAA.

Members of the Guard and Reserve will also be allowed through the bill to access Vet Centers for mental health screening and counseling, employee assessments, education training and other services to help them return to civilian life.

The Seeding Rural Resilence Act was also fought for to be included in the NDAA, which aims to curb the rising rate of farmer suicides across the country according to Tester’s release.

A release from Senator Steve Daines listed some of the top Montana defense priorities that were included in the NDAA as well:

  • Addresses limitations regarding Military Construction (MILCON) and Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) Launch Facilities. It will also allow the Secretary of Defense to use certain funds for MILCON projects related to modernizing missile silos and Missile Alert Facilities.
  • Provides reserve retirement relief for service members affected by the COVID-19 stop movement order. This follows Daines’ direct request for this item
  • $1.5 billion in full funding for GBSD which will strengthen our missile defense systems at Malmstrom
  • $25 million in Military Construction Spending for the Weapon Storage and Maintenance Facility at Malmstrom