Lewistown News-Argus: Jon Tester: Pressing for Sentinel Project answers to keep Montana and our country safe

by Senator Jon Tester

I often say that Montana is the greatest state in the greatest country in the world. From the freedoms our veterans have fought to protect, to the public lands we share, it’s no surprise that we are the envy of the rest of the world. Our foreign adversaries like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea would like nothing more than to take our place as the world’s leading economic and military superpower — but as Montana’s senior senator and the chairman of the committee that sets our military’s budget, I’m committed to making sure our adversaries won’t succeed.

A key part of America’s position of strength over our enemies lives right here in Northcentral Montana. Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Minuteman III missiles have been our country’s greatest deterrent against foreign adversaries for decades, dating all the way back to the 1960s. Our land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are a key leg of our nuclear triad and have been an ace-in-the-hole keeping Montana and our entire country safe from those who want to do us harm. But after more than half a century, our missiles are badly in need of an upgrade. That’s why I’ve long supported the Sentinel Project, and I’m committed to holding folks accountable in Washington to make sure the project gets done on time, in a cost-efficient way, and with the support of Montana labor and good-paying Montana jobs.

Montanans deserve updates and answers on the Sentinel Project when it’s happening in their own backyard. Unfortunately, military leaders haven’t been able to give us a concrete timeline for the completion of the project. That’s why earlier this month, while chairing my defense subcommittee, I grilled Air Force leadership on a timeline for beginning construction in Great Falls.

And I’m pressing top military brass to get me final estimates from the Nunn-McCurdy review (a process triggered when a military project is projected to go over budget) so we know what the final project will entail, exactly how much it will cost, and the timeline for completion. And I’ve pressed both the Defense Department and government contractors like Northrop Grumman and Bechtel to provide a detailed breakdown of the laborers they’ll need — down to the exact numbers of pipefitters, electricians, mechanics, and engineers that they’ll bring on to get the job done.

If executed properly, the Sentinel Project will not only strengthen our national security but also bolster our local economy, providing good-paying jobs in Montana towns from Lewistown to Great Falls. Montanans proudly built the Minuteman III missiles and silos and they should build the Sentinel Project too. We have a well-trained work force that knows how to build right here in the Treasure State. I’ll continue pushing the Air Force and government contractors to use as much Montana labor as possible on the project, because if you want a job done right, you hire a Montanan.

There are some folks who argue that the Sentinel Project is not a worthwhile investment for Montana and our country. At a time when China and Russia are on the march and are modernizing and expanding their nuclear arsenals, I couldn’t disagree more. It is critical that America maintains our position of strength. Our ICBMs are the most responsive leg of our nuclear triad and remain available 24/7, 365 days a year, always at the ready to deter and protect against those who seek to do us harm. In our increasingly uncertain world, Montana families deserve to know that when they and their loved ones go to bed at night they are safe.

The bottom line is that the Sentinel Project will be a game changer for our national security and for Montana’s economy — but it’s time to start shoveling some dirt. I’ll be holding folks’ feet to the fire to get answers and updates for Montanans on the project, and I will continue to do all I can to make sure Malmstrom’s mission can carry on for decades to come.