At Malmstrom Air Force Base, Tester Talks Military Preparedness Against China, Defense Wins, Needs for Upcoming Year

Senator addressed Airmen, Montana Air National Guard, Great Falls Chamber of Commerce members at Military Affairs Committee monthly meeting

As a part of his years-long effort to ensure that Malmstrom Air Force Base (MAFB) and Montana Air National Guard (MANG) have the resources necessary to keep Montana and the country safe, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today spoke with MAFB and MANG Airmen at the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce’s Military Committee monthly luncheon regarding updates on threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party, recent wins in the National Defense Authorization Act, securing new C130-J aircraft for MANG, and upcoming needs in his defense appropriations bill.  

Tester is the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which plays a key role in crafting the annual budget for the Department of Defense and the entire United States Armed Forces.

“Malmstrom is a critical part of our national defense strategy and plays a key role in deterring our foreign adversaries—so ensuring they have the necessary resources to keep us safe and deter Chinese efforts is one of my top priorities,” said Tester. “I’ll always fight to empower the airmen at Malmstrom and the Montana Air National Guard through my work in the Senate, and the best way to hear what they need is talking eyeball to eyeball. Today’s meeting was insightful and productive, and I look forward to using feedback from the folks at Malmstrom and the Montana Air National Guard to help craft a full 2024 budget that keeps Montanans safe.”

Tester also spoke with MAFB leadership and Airmen regarding the Sentinel program’s replacement of MAFB’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) system with Ground Based Strategic Deterrents (GBSD).

As the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Tester passed his Defense Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Bill by overwhelming bipartisan vote out of committee in July. Tester’s bill will prepare our military against foreign adversaries, honor our nation’s commitment to servicemembers, veterans, and their families, and ensure America retains its competitive edge over China while using made-in-Montana cutting-edge solutions and next-generation research. Specifically, Tester’s bill includes $293.5 million more than the President’s budget request for radars, radar upgrades, and communications equipment to protect the U.S. homeland from surveillance efforts by adversaries like the Chinese government to make sure incursions like the Chinese spy balloon never happen again.

As part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24), Tester helped authorize $10.3 million for MAFB construction and land acquisition that will go towards a new fire station bay and storage area; $30 million for the Montana Air National Guard (MANG) to construct new fueling facilities to support the fueling of aircraft assigned to MANG and to provide a gas station, including fuel storage, fuel off-loading, fuel dispensing and an operations building for fueling operations; and a 5.2% pay raise for American troops, which is the largest pay raise in two decades.

In September, as a part of sustained efforts from Senator Tester, the U.S. Air Force announced MANG will receive eight C-130J aircraft. Tester has been a relentless advocate for critical modernization efforts of MANG’s aging fleet of C-130Hs and fought for years to bring new C-130Js to Montana.

Tester has long been a champion for the Sentinel program’s replacement of ICBMs with GBSDs and has repeatedly pushed DOD to take necessary steps to keep Malmstrom’s ICBM replacement on track.

In April, Tester brought Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and top Air Force leadership to Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana Air National Guard’s 120th Airlift Wing to meet directly with servicemembers, receive updates on Malmstrom’s response to the Chinese spy balloon, discuss DOD’s response to incidents of rare cancers among missileers, and assess readiness capabilities as Congress works on next year’s military budget. In August, following a report from the Air Force which revealed findings of unsafe levels of a likely carcinogen at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Cascade County, Montana, Tester sent a letter demanding the DOD take immediate action to ensure all potentially impacted missileers and their families receive swift answers and appropriate care.