Tester, Daines sit down with Air Force over Powder River expansion

Senators say current plan doesn’t address Montanans’ concerns

(U.S. Senate) – Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines today made clear to U.S. Air Force officials why the current proposal to expand the Powder River Training Complex does not work for Montana.

Tester and Daines met with Air Force officials to discuss the Air Force’s recent Environmental Impact Study for expanding the 28,000 square mile airspace for Air Force training missions operated from bases in North and South Dakota. The Montana Air National Guard is not expected to use the expanded airspace.

Tester, Daines and the Air Force representatives discussed issues the Senators raised in a letter last month to Air Force Secretary Deborah James and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. The Senators expressed concern about military aircraft interfering with civilian air traffic in southeastern Montana, where the current proposal allows low altitude flights in areas with little to no radar coverage.

The Air Force officials told the Senators that they will take their concerns into consideration.

“Montanans aren’t happy about the current expansion plan, and the Air Force heard that loud and clear,” Tester said. “Senator Daines and I will continue working to make sure the concerns of eastern Montanans are taken into account.”

“I’m disappointed that the Air Force has yet to adequately address Montanans’ concerns regarding the proposed expansion of the Powder River Training Complex,” Daines said. “As the FAA prepares to review the Air Force’s proposal, I will continue working with our delegation to ensure Montanans’ concerns are quickly mitigated. The expansion as currently proposed is simply unacceptable.”

Among other issues, Tester and Daines asked if the Air Force could condense the amount of time military aircraft could occupy an area of low-level airspace near Baker, Montana. Currently, the Air Force has 240 days to complete 92 hours of training, which the Senators and many Montanans feel is much too long.

Tester, Walsh, Daines Letter on Powder River Expansion by Dan Malessa