Tester Grills Air Force Officials on Great Falls Sentinel Project Timeline in Military Construction Hearing: “When is it going to start?”

Senator pushes for target start date, prioritization of Montana workers in military construction

As a part of his decade-long fight to replace Malmstrom Air Force Base’s Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile system (ICBM) with the Sentinel Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), U.S. Senator Jon Tester today grilled United States Air Force (USAF) leadership on a timeline for beginning construction on the Sentinel Project in Great Falls during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Military Construction.

“I’ve asked about the Sentinel project – when’s it going to start?” asked Tester again after repeatedly grilling USAF Lieutenant General Tom Miller. “If we continue not to have a starting date, this will never start, and it puts this country at a tremendous risk … Because if we don’t know when this project’s going to start, I don’t know how you can spend that money in a way that’s cost-effective to the taxpayer and for our nation’s security.”

Tester went on to stress the importance of hiring Montana workers to build out the project: “Montanans built [Minuteman I], and they’ll build this one too if you give them an opportunity to do that. I can help, Montana can help, our trade schools can help, our high schools can help, we can all help – we have people that work with their hands all the time … So I would hope that once we get a timeline, then we can start talking about workforce and start getting this done.”

In response to Tester’s questioning, Lieutenant General Miller promised to get Tester an answer on the timeline for the Sentinel Project’s start date. Additionally, Lieutenant General Miller suggested that the USAF Program Office would be working with communities like Great Falls to ensure that the workforce is prepared to start the project.

Tester has long been a champion for the Sentinel program’s replacement of ICBMs with the Sentinel Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and has repeatedly pushed DOD to take necessary steps to keep Malmstrom’s ICBM replacement on track. In April while Chairing a Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Defense Hearing, Tester pressed Air Force leadership to take necessary steps to keep Malmstrom Air Force Base’s (MAFB) ICBM replacement on schedule. In January, Tester spoke with MAFB leadership and Airmen at the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee monthly luncheon regarding the Sentinel program’s replacement of MAFB’s ICBM system. 

As the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Tester is responsible for crafting the annual Defense Appropriations bill which will provide funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) and related activities in FY25. Last month, Tester successfully passed his annual Defense Appropriations bill into law which will fund the DOD and related activities in FY24. Tester’s FY24 bill prepares our military against our adversaries and ensures America retains its competitive edge over China while using made-in-Montana cutting-edge solutions and next-generation research. As part of Tester’s FY24 bill, he secured an additional $200 million in investments in the supply chain, industrial base, and workforce for the Sentinel program.

Watch Tester’s full line of questioning HERE.