Leading Defense Subcommittee Hearing, Tester Presses Air Force Leadership to Keep Malmstrom’s Sentinel Program on Track

Senator pressed military leaders to take necessary steps to keep Malmstrom’s ICBM replacement on schedule

As a part of his continued efforts to ensure that our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to keep Montana and our country safe, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today chaired a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing with Air Force and Space Force leadership to review the President’s FY2025 budget request.

During the hearing, Tester pressed Air Force and Space Force leadership to take necessary steps to keep Malmstrom Air Force Base’s (MAFB) ICBM replacement on schedule: “The Sentinel project is a project that’s near and dear to [me]… There’s about $3.7 billion that’s allocated to Sentinel and this is to replace the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. There have been cost increases and scheduled delays. And quite frankly, I believe the Air Force is going to make a decision on the path forward in June. But quite frankly, we’re running against, in my perspective, running against some real time issues if we’re going to get these replaced in the three ICBM bases by 2036… How committed is the Air Force to replacing Minuteman III? Do you believe the Air Force has the folks in position to manage this program? And do you think we’ll be able to get it done on time, that time being 2036?”

In response to questioning from Tester, General David W. Allvin pledged that military leaders “remain committed” to the Sentinel program. Tester emphasized in response that the Air Force must establish a concrete timeline for the ICBM replacements: “I just think it’s critically important and I think that if we don’t get a good solid timeline about when things are going to happen… then we can anticipate that we’ll never hit that 2036 mark.”

Tester also stressed the importance of delivering the FY2025 Defense Appropriations bill on time to support the Air Force and Space Force and ensure servicemembers have the certainty they need to keep our country safe: “The fact of the matter is our Airmen and Guardians deserve better and we can do better. Timely enactment of the defense appropriation bill has never been more urgent. China’s intentions regarding Taiwan coupled with its advancements in military modernization, Russia’s unjust war in Ukraine, and the escalation in the Middle East are just a few examples of a global security environment that require continued diligence and modernization of critical weapon systems to effectively deter violence and defend ourselves and our allies. Continuing resolutions, government shutdowns without accurate appropriations, it hamstrings our national defense.”

Witnesses who testified at Chairman Tester’s hearing included Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, Air Force Chief of Staff David W. Allvin, and Chief of Space Operations General B. Chance Saltzman. 

As the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Tester is responsible for crafting the annual Defense Appropriations bill which will provide funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) and related activities in FY25. Last month, Tester successfully passed his annual Defense Appropriations bill into law which will fund the DOD and related activities in FY24. Tester’s FY24 bill prepares our military against our adversaries and ensures America retains its competitive edge over China while using made-in-Montana cutting-edge solutions and next-generation research. As part of Tester’s FY24 bill, he secured an additional $200 million in investments in the supply chain, industrial base, and workforce for the Sentinel program.

Tester has long been a champion for the Sentinel program’s replacement of ICBMs with Ground Based Strategic Deterrents (GBSD) and has repeatedly pushed DOD to take necessary steps to keep Malmstrom’s ICBM replacement on track. In January, Tester spoke with MAFB leadership and Airmen at the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce’s Military Committee monthly luncheon regarding the Sentinel program’s replacement of MAFB’s ICBM system.