Trump Administration to Raid Additional $3.8 Billion from Troops, National Guard to Pay for Border Wall—Tester Statement

President Trump redirects funds away from C-130Js, putting long-term mission at Montana Air National Guard in jeopardy; Senator continues fight to protect Montana troops, installations from raiding of funds for border wall

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today blasted the Trump Administration’s move to transfer more than $3.8 billion from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) towards construction of a wall at the southern border, jeopardizing Montana’s sustained ability to respond to emergencies at home and abroad by raiding funds dedicated to new C-130Js for the Air National Guard.

“Once again, this Administration seeks to raid the defense budget at the expense of our nation’s military capabilities for the sole purpose of building an ineffective and costly border wall,” said Tester. “Congress fought in a bipartisan way to secure additional funding for new C-130Js intended for units like the 120th Airlift Wing in Great Falls, who recently flew the oldest C-130Hs in the U.S. inventory while deployed in the Middle East. But now, the President is hijacking these and other critical investments for his political campaign promise—undermining the long-term mission of the 120th and the ability of those Guardsmen and women to safely and effectively carry out that mission for decades to come.”

The Trump Administration’s reprogramming guts critical funding from DoD military readiness and disaster relief programs. Among the funds raided are those to purchase new C-130Js—aircraft critical to the Montana Air National Guard’s (MANG) long-term ability to provide airlift support and complete other missions, as well as disaster relief and firefighting duties.

For years, Tester has fought on behalf of MANG—advocating for new aircraft and military construction projects, while fighting on behalf of critical modernization efforts for its aging fleet of C-130Hs. He successfully included legislation in the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, providing the Air Force with the authorization and funding it needed to modernize its C-130H fleet.

The President’s reprogramming comes on the heels of recent news that Great Falls was awarded a $9 million contract to build a new aircraft apron at MANG, a necessary component to safely landing and maintaining C-130Js. Tester, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, successfully secured funding years ahead of schedule in the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Appropriations package for this aircraft apron.

The President also plans to transfer $1.3 billion from projects under the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account, which provides National Guard units resources to accomplish their missions safely and effectively. Following brutal wildfires in 2017, Tester successfully delivered new firefighting equipment to the Montana Army National Guard’s helicopter fleets, to ensure they were well-equipped ahead of the next season. This account has helped secure critical equipment such as fire trucks, high frequency radios, snow plows, and rescue equipment used by Guard units across the country to respond to domestic emergencies.

Tester also sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense today in response to the DoD’s reprogramming proposal, calling it a “reckless decision” and “unacceptable.” He called on Secretary Esper to rescind the reprogramming decision and prioritize the safety, readiness, and effectiveness of our military.