Tester Leads Bipartisan Call to Ensure Minuteman III Replacement at Malmstrom Remains on Track

Senator: “There is no slack in the GBSD schedule”

U.S. Senator Jon Tester is joining a bipartisan group of colleagues to call on Defense Secretary Mark Esper to ensure the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, which will ultimately modernize and replace the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) weapons system (including the Minuteman III, at Malmstrom Air Force Base), stays on schedule.

The Senators highlighted the continued nuclear ambitions of our nation’s adversaries, and stressed that the program must be delivered on time to ensure the U.S. nuclear forces remain a credible deterrent well into the future.

“We appreciate your commitment to the critical role GBSD will play in maintaining a safe, reliable, and effective nuclear deterrent for decades to come, and ask that you ensure the GBSD stays on track for initial operational capability in 2029,” the Senators wrote. “We are aware of recent calls to modify the GBSD acquisition strategy, but whether the Air Force chooses to retain its current approach or make modifications, we stress that we simply cannot afford any delays in this program.”

The GBSD program began in 2017, and the current phase of the project is expected to be completed in 2020, with deployment scheduled for the late 2020’s. A 2018 review of America’s nuclear arsenal determined the Minuteman III’s service life is nearing an end, emphasizing the need for GBSD to continue on schedule.

“Any delay in the GBSD program will risk undermining the future deterrent capability the United States needs to defend its homeland and its allies,” The Senators continued. “We appreciate the Air Force’s commitment to modernizing the U.S. ICBM force and ask that you work to ensure the GBSD program is not disrupted or delayed.”

Tester has fought hard to defend the arsenal at Malmstrom. This spring he expressed concern with the DoD decision to redirect critical Minuteman III funding to pay for President Trump’s border wall, putting national security at risk, and he recently secured investments to support the Air Force nuclear modernization, including an additional $65 million for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program and $105 million for Minuteman III modernization and maintenance.

Earlier this month Tester also delivered $170 million for the replacement of the Vietnam-era Huey helicopters at Malmstrom and $2 million for civil engineering equipment utilized by the 819th and 219th REDHORSE units as part of the bipartisan 2020 Defense Appropriations Act.

The full text of the group’s letter can be found HERE.