Hoeven: Air Force Secretary Announces Move to Strengthen ICBM Force

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today commended a move by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III to continue efforts to improve the Air Force’s nuclear mission and increase support to the men and women who operate, maintain and support the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile force, including those at Minot Air Force Base.

Secretary James has also recommended to the secretary of defense elevating the Global Strike Command leadership to a four-star general, from the current three-star rank, highlighting the importance of the role. This proposal will require congressional approval.

The Air Force also will increase the Air Force assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration from a two-star to a three-star position. Additionally, the service will increase nuclear manning levels and strengthen professional development.

Part of that manpower goes to putting more mid-level officers into the missile squadrons. Walsh said the Air Force is not just increasing the rank within the organization, it is also increasing the overall manpower by more than 1,100 personnel to address shortfalls and offer our Airmen a more stable work schedule and better quality of life.”

Earlier this month, Hoeven met with Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Commander, 20th Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) to discuss the future of the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force. Hoeven asked the general for an update on ICBM modernization efforts, the implementation of New START and the new structure of the nation’s nuclear force, as well as specific issues facing Minot Air Force Base (MAFB).

“The men and women at Minot Air Force Base are doing an outstanding job, and it’s important that this critical mission get the priority status it should,” Hoeven said. “We continue working with Air Force leaders to ensure our airmen have the support they need to maintain our nuclear deterrent during a time of great uncertainty around the world.”

Hoeven and Weinstein talked about the need to make upgrades to the Minuteman III missile, upgrade the infrastructure at Minot Air Force Base and ensure the safety of airmen working throughout the ICBM fields that span much of northwestern North Dakota.

The senator continues fighting to maintain a strong ICBM force at MAFB and throughout the country, by working with Air Force officials such as Maj. Gen. Weinstein and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who Hoeven spoke with earlier this year.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate ICBM Coalition, Hoeven authored a provision in the fiscal year FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill that explicitly blocks the administration from reducing the number of active silos containing Minuteman III ICBMs, all of which are located at bases in North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

This legislation also included more than $30 million in funding for three construction and maintenance projects at MAFB:

• B-52 Aircraft Maintenance Facility – $15.5 million. Funding will be used to construct an aircraft maintenance facility to house additional maintenance personnel and equipment associated with the second B-52 squadron.

• B-52 Munitions Storage Igloos – $8.3 million. This project funds four munitions storage igloos to hold additional conventional munitions in support of the second B-52 squadron.

• Fuel Pipeline Replacement – $6.4 million. This funding will replace an aging fuel pipeline that supports aircraft operations on the base.

The senator is continuing his efforts to secure funds and bill language that support America’s nuclear deterrent and the missions at MAFB as the committee prepares the appropriations bills for FY 2015.