Tester Secures Key Montana Priorities in Annual Defense Bill, Including at Malmstrom & for Veterans

Senator scores big for critical upgrades at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana National Guard, servicemembers, veterans, and military families

A number of key defense priorities spearheaded by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) were included in the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference agreement. The House is expected to pass the bill Wednesday and send it to the Senate where it is also expected to pass.

The NDAA sets funding levels and policies for the Department of Defense (DOD). The bill includes a number of important provisions championed by Tester that will strengthen military bases across the country, including Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana Air National Guard, and expand services for servicemembers, veterans, and military families.

“Folks in Montana can breathe easy knowing that we scored big in this year’s annual defense bill,” said Tester. “Ensuring our safety and security starts with making critical investments in our military and national defense at home— and this bill does just that. It not only strengthens our defense capabilities at Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana National Guard, it also does right by our troops and their families who make sacrifices every day to keep us safe. I will continue to push this comprehensive bill over the finish line in Congress, so that we can continue to keep Americans safe.”

Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base is one of only three military bases across the country that house intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The current fleet of ICBMs were first developed in the 1960s. Tester has been working closely with Republican and Democrats to ensure that U.S. nuclear forces remain a credible deterrent well into the future. The NDAA includes a number of Tester-backed investments in the maintenance and modernization of our nation’s ICBM force, including those at Malmstrom:

  • $552 million for research and development of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), our nation’s future nuclear deterrent program.
  • $171 million to fully support the replacement of the Air Force’s UH-1N Huey replacement program.
  • $78 million for procurement of Minuteman Man III modernization to ensure the viability of our nation’s current strategic deterrent.
  • $75 million to support the Defense Community Infrastructure Program which will provide grants, conclude cooperative agreements, and supplemental funds available under other federal programs to assist states and local governments in addressing deficiencies in community infrastructure projects or facilities that are located outside of military installations but that support military installations.
  • $59 million authorized for the construction of a Weapons Storage and Maintenance Facility at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
  • $27 million for nuclear weapon modernization research and development.

Tester additionally included provisions in the bill to support military spouses through the Widow’s Tax Elimination Act, a push to help the more than 65,000 military widows and widowers nationwide receive the full survivor benefits they are due. The NDAA also includes protections for active duty and National Guard and Reserve members transferring their education benefits, which Tester continues to fight for in his Post-9/11 GI Bill Transferability Entitlement Act. As a part of his larger push to support military families, he also included language to increase accountability and oversight of privatized military housing and improve the household goods movement program.

To help combat the veteran suicide epidemic, Tester included language authorizing the National Guard to establish a Suicide Prevention Pilot program to ensure Guard members receive prompt support and immediate access to behavior health professional on any mobile device.

In addition to providing a 3.1 percent pay raise to servicemembers, the largest pay raise to U.S. troops in a decade, the annual defense bill also includes Tester’s Occupational and Environmental Transparency Health (OATH) Act. As Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Tester has been leading the effort in Congress to ensure that servicemembers and veterans exposed to Occupational Environmental Health hazards in the line of duty get the necessary medical care and benefits they need. His bipartisan bill requires DOD to track active duty military personnel and veterans’ exposed to harmful chemicals in a system.