Hoeven: Congress Passes 2012 Defense Authorization Bill With Priorities Important to North Dakota and the Nation

Measure Includes Authorizations for Minot, Grand Forks Air Force Bases, ND Air Guard

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today said the U.S. Senate has passed, 86 to 13, the FY 2012 Defense Authorization bill, which includes measures to strengthen the nation’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) force, B-52 fleet, Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems program and C-27J air fleet. The authorizations will directly benefit both Minot and Grand Forks Air Force Bases. 

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Defense Authorization bill Wednesday, and it now goes to the President, who is expected to sign it. The bill finds $62 billion in savings over the FY 2011 Defense Authorization, while maintaining a strong, modern military infrastructure. 

“Today, Congress authorized a range of important military projects that will help to keep our military strong and our country safe,” Hoeven said. “Our armed services will continue to have the up-to-date, state-of-the-art resources they need to defend our nation at home and abroad.” 

In support of the nation’s nuclear defenses, the legislation authorized more than $500 million for ICBM procurement, research and development. That includes funding for modification to the Minuteman III, missile replacement equipment, and other technical upgrades to the strategic nuclear force, as well as funding for missile engineering and manufacturing development. 

In addition, it authorizes $94 million to modify the B-52 bomber aircraft fleet, including the beginning of a program to enable the aircraft to carry smart weapons internally in its bomb bay, rather than on the wing, resulting in greater fuel efficiency and range.  Minot Air Force Base is home to both ICBM and B-52 missions. The legislation includes $34 million for a B-52 maintenance dock, $11.8 million for a B-52 munitions maintenance facility and $22 million for a 168-room dormitory at Minot Air Force Base. 

The Defense Authorization bill also approves more than $900 million to fund the Global Hawk Reconnaissance aircraft, including the procurement of additional aircraft and research and development. Grand Forks Air Force Base received its first Global Hawk in June as part of the base’s new unmanned aerial systems mission.  In July, the Air Force activated a new unit at the base to operate and maintain the Global Hawk missions. 

Congress also authorized $480 million to expand the C-27J cargo fleet. The C-27J is a smaller, more flexible cargo aircraft used to transport materials in support of combat operations. It is able to operate in remote and rough environments and can take off and land from unprepared surfaces and short airstrips. Fargo Air Base is in line to base and maintain a number of C-27J aircraft. The ICBM, B-52, Global Hawk and C-27J project funding was appropriated in September by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, on which Hoeven serves. 

The authorizing legislation also includes the National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act, a measure Hoeven cosponsored to make the Chief of the National Guard Bureau a statutory member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The provision more closely incorporates the nation’s 450,000 National Guard members into the country’s military force structure.