Leading Defense Subcommittee Hearing, Tester Presses Top National Guard Brass on C-130J Delivery Timeline and Border Security

Senator received commitment that C-130J delivery timeline for MANG is on track, continued to hold Biden Administration accountable over border crisis: “Things have gotten worse under the Administration’s failed border policies”

As part of his continued efforts to keep Montana and our nation safe, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today chaired a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing where he pressed National Guard leadership on the delivery timeline for C-130J aircraft arriving at Montana Air National Guard Base (MANG) in Great Falls.

Tester pressed National Guard General Daniel R. Hokanson to confirm that delivery of C-130J aircraft to MANG remains on track: “The Guard announced that [between] Spring of ‘26 to the Fall of ’26, the C-130Js will be delivered to Montana. Do those dates still stand?” Additionally, Tester requested logistics on how the replacement will be conducted: “And will the [C-130]Hs – the museum pieces – be swapped out for the [C-130]Js on a one-to-one basis?”

In response to Tester’s questioning, General Hokanson confirmed that “those dates still stand” and that the aircraft will be replaced on a “two-for-two” swap, with two aircraft arriving at a time to replace the old fleet. 

Tester also criticized the Biden Administration’s failed border policies, pressing top military brass appearing in front of his committee to address how the crisis at the southern border is impacting the National Guard’s operational readiness: “The National Guard is now in the seventh year of serving on the southern border in support of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. During that time, things have gotten worse under the Administration’s failed border policies. So General, I’m going to ask the same question I asked Secretary Austin when he was in front of this Committee last month: how many Guards personnel are currently serving on the southern border? And what does this mean for Guardsmen’s operational readiness for other duties?” In response to Tester, General Hokanson acknowledged that the Administration’s border policies have put a strain on our troops, stating that “there is no military training value” to having Guardsman on the border and that their time “would be better utilized building readiness to deter our adversaries.”

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. Earlier this year 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. 

Following sustained efforts from Tester, the U.S. Air Force announced in April that the Montana Air National Guard Base (MANG) in Great Falls will officially be the first of four selected military bases to receive delivery of new C-130J aircraft. Tester applied pressure on Air Force leadership resulting in MANG being selected for delivery ahead of the Connecticut, Minnesota, and Illinois Air National Guard bases. Tester first announced in September that MANG would receive eight C-130J aircraft and pushed the Air Force to select MANG for the earliest delivery possible.

For years, Tester has fought on behalf of MANG—advocating for new aircraft and military construction projects, while fighting for critical modernization efforts for its aging fleet of C-130Hs. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Tester has made bringing C-130Js to Montana a top priority. Tester secured $840 million in the latest FY24 Appropriations package to help ensure MANG’s C-130J deliveries remain on schedule. Additionally, Tester successfully secured more than $1.7 billion in funding for 16 C-130Js in the FY23 Appropriations package, and $1.8 billion in funding for 16 C-130Js for the Air National Guard in the FY22 Appropriations package. Tester was the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation to vote for this funding.

Tester has led the charge to secure the southern border and stop the deadly flow of fentanyl that is wreaking havoc on Montana. He has repeatedly expressed to Secretary Mayorkas and President Biden that the Administration must do more and “use all of the remaining tools at your disposal” to secure our borders. Tester voted to secure the southern border in February and again in May – but politicians in Congress blocked the bipartisan border security legislation.