Tester Secures Big Wins for Montana Veterans, Defense Installations, Military Research in Year-End Government Funding Deal

Senate passes federal funding package with provisions to support Montana veterans; Millions for Malmstrom, Montana National Guard, & Montana State University

U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) secured major wins today in a bipartisan government funding agreement that supports veterans and strengthens critical defense installations in Montana. After weeks of negotiating, the U.S. Senate passed the agreement today, which now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester is responsible for writing the 12 bills that fund the federal government each year. Tester secured millions in funding to support the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and successfully included additional funding for resources to support caregivers, women veterans, and mental health initiatives.

“Serving our veterans is a cost of war, and we can never back down from that responsibility,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “This bill does right by our veterans in Montana and across the country by making sure VA has the resources and tools to provide quality care and benefits to those who served. Today, we are doing right by the thousands of men and women who valiantly answered the call of duty and fought to defend our freedom.”

Tester fought to include the following provisions for veterans:

  • $92.1 billion for VA & related agencies, an increase of $5.4 billion.
  • $51.4 billion for in-house VA medical care, an increase of $1.5 billion.
  • $710 million for the VA Caregiver Support Program.
  • $585 million for resources and care for women veterans, an increase of $89 million.
  • $9.4 billion to provide mental health care and improve VA’s suicide prevention efforts, an increase of $445 million.
  • $300 million for rural health care, an increase of $30 million.
  • $1.1 billion for telehealth care, particularly in rural and remote areas, an increase of $135 million.
  • $120 million for Office of Inspector General, an increase of $18 million.

Tester also doubled down on his efforts to strengthen Malmstrom Air Force Base by securing $120 million to construct a new Weapons Storage Facility and $170.1 million for the UH-1N replace program. He also included funding to facilitate research at Montana universities to increase our nation’s defense capabilities and strengthen border security operations through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“Few things I do here in Washington are as important as ensuring that Montanans are safe and secure,” said Tester. “This bill protects our nation from threats near and far by making investments in critical defense installations, and universities on the forefront of cutting-edge military research. It also provides our men and women in uniform the highest pay raise in over a decade, following through on our duty to serve those who serve us every day.”

Among the Montana defense and homeland security provisions Tester successfully included in the federal spending bill are:

  • National Guard: $338 million for four new C-130J aircraft for the Air National Guard and $134 million in C-130H modernization for new engines and eight bladed propellers for the Air Guard.
  • Malmstrom Air Force Base: Investments to support Air Force nuclear modernization, including an additional $65 million for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program and $105 million for Minute Man III modernization and maintenance; $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; and a $85 million increase for Counter-Drug Programs in the National Guard.
  • Military Personnel: Includes a 3.1 percent military pay raise.
  • Montana State University:
    o $10 million for the Army Research Laboratory to support Montana State University’s research in extreme battery production; improving battery materials and chemistry to make them inherently more rugged while meeting energy and power requirements.
    o $4 million to help small businesses partner with DOD research laboratories through Techlink at Montana State University.
    o $8 million to support Montana State University’s development of new carbon fiber materials for rotary aircraft.
    o $4 million for Montana State University’s request of funding for Advanced Manufacturing, Space, and Optics laboratories, which are capable of providing new and innovative light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technologies.
    o $7 million to support a partnership between DHS Science and Technology (S&T) and Montana State University to develop innovative technologies.
    o $3 million to support collaboration between DHS S&T and Montana State University to develop security mechanisms that can quickly respond to cyberattacks. 
  • University of Montana:
    o $15 million for critical language and culture training at the University of Montana for Special Operations forces and members of the intelligence community.
    o $5 million to support research into Noise Induced Hearing Loss Research and Development Initiative.
  • Border and other Security Operations:
    o $15 million for next generation mobile surveillance systems, like the FLIR lightweight vehicle surveillance system.
    o $8 million for enhanced situational awareness and network security and resilience capabilities, work that is intended to be performed by S2 Corporation.