To Protect Montana’s National Security Assets, Tester Amendment Limits Efforts by President to Raid Defense Budget for Border Wall
Senator pushing to include amendment in annual defense legislation: ‘Instead of bringing our most powerful means of defense into the 21st Century, the President wants to build a Medieval border wall’
(U.S. Senate) – In response to President Donald Trump’s decision to raid existing military budgets in order to pay for a wall on the southern border, U.S. Senator Jon Tester has introduced an amendment to hold the President accountable, limit his power to redirect critical national security dollars at the expense of military readiness, and protect Montana’s military assets at Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana Air National Guard (MANG). Tester is pushing to attach this amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)-a must-pass annual defense bill the Senate is debating this week.
“President Trump is raiding our defense budget in order to pay for his southern border wall,” Tester said. “He’s gutting funding for mission-critical projects, including sorely needed upgrades to our nation’s ground-based nuclear missiles, and he’s targeting critical infrastructure projects at both Malmstrom and the Montana Air National Guard. Instead of bringing our most powerful means of defense into the 21st Century, the President wants to build a Medieval border wall-and it’s time for Congress to intervene or risk a huge blow to our military readiness.”
Despite the Senate’s bipartisan rejection of his emergency declaration in March, President Trump has forged ahead on his plan to siphon $3.6 billion dollars from the Department of Defense (DoD) and military construction budgets in order to pay for a southern border wall. As part of this reprogramming effort, the White House plans to completely gut funding for the Minuteman III Launch Control Block Upgrades Program, while also putting funding for Malmstrom’s new Missile Maintenance Dispatch Facility and MANG’s new C-130 Apron at serious risk.
Tester recently sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of Defense in response to the DoD’s reprogramming proposal, calling it “inconceivable” and “inconsistent with [our] national security priorities.” Tester is now pushing to limit future reprogramming by attaching an amendment to the NDAA that would:
- Limit the amount of funding a President can reallocate from the military construction budget under a national emergency declaration.
- Require the White House to provide additional notification and justification for the use of the armed forces in response to declared national emergencies.
- Require additional documentation and explanation of the costs and necessity of construction projects undertaken by the armed forces in response to declared national emergencies.
The Administration’s reprogramming efforts won’t just affect this year’s defense budget. Gutting funding for long-planned upgrades and projects will delay future construction as well. In March, Tester secured a commitment from the Air Force to build a new $235 million Weapons Generation Facility at Malmstrom Air Force Base to replace its current facility-which was constructed in the 1960’s. But, when pressed about the impact of the Administration’s reprogramming efforts on this project, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson could not guarantee it would remain in the 2020 budget.
As a longtime member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester has fought hard to fund ICBM modernization efforts. He helped secure funding for the Minuteman III Launch Control Block Upgrades in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act-funding that is now being diverted for the President’s border wall. Tester also helped secure funding for Malmstrom’s new Missile Maintenance Dispatch Facility and MANG’s new C-130 Apron-funding that the White House could soon divert as well.