Tester, Baucus keep F-15s in Great Falls

Senators also ensure continued operation for Malmstrom’s missiles

(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus are celebrating two victories for Great Falls: keeping the Montana Air National Guard’s F-15s in the Electric City and securing Malmstrom Air Force Base’s nuclear missiles.

Tester and Baucus backed two provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that ensure MANG’s fighter mission remains in Great Falls into 2013 and keeps Malmstrom’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles active and fully maintained. The defense bill passed the Senate today 98 to 0.

“MANG and Malmstrom are important pieces of America’s defense strategy that provide good jobs and strengthen Montana’s economy,” Tester said. “Montana’s Airmen are valuable citizens and good neighbors who work hard to defend our nation. Today’s vote protects their central role in our national defense.”

“We’re using every tool we’ve got to make sure Great Falls maintains a strong flying mission and ICBM force that supports our national security and our local jobs,” Baucus said.

Tester and Baucus have long-pressed key Defense Department officials to keep MANG’s F-15s in Great Falls unless the Pentagon guaranteed another manned flying mission that benefits the state, keeps jobs in Great Falls, and strengthens the security of the nation.

Malmstrom’s ICBM mission accounts for more than 40 percent of the economy in north-central Montana and provides approximately 5,000 jobs. The provision backed by Tester and Baucus requires the Defense Department to maintain 450 operational land-based launch facilities in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota, and pushes the Secretary of Defense to maintain force readiness.

Tester and Baucus also supported an additional measure in the bill that would require the President to consult more closely with Congress on the status of nuclear weapons discussions with Russia.

Additional Provisions in the Defense Authorization Bill

• Baucus and Tester defeated a measure that would have limited the military’s ability to purchase American-made energy like biofuels made from Montana camelina.

• Baucus and Tester secured the Stolen Valor Act as part of the bill.

• Tester included a provision in the bill to increase veterans’ access to care by improving the VA’s veterans’ transportation service. The initiative gives the VA the authority to hire full-time drivers and will save the VA millions of taxpayer dollars.

• Baucus secured the Mental Health ACCESS Act, which will create a comprehensive and standardized suicide prevention program for military service members. Tester also co-sponsored.

• Baucus secured a bipartisan measure designed to end America’s longest war and bring troops home from Afghanistan.

The House of Representatives already passed its version of the major defense bill. Once the House and Senate agree on a final version, the President is expected to sign the bill into law.