Hoeven: Defense Authorization Bill Passes U.S. Senate with Priorities Important to North Dakota and the Nation

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

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today said the U.S. Senate last night passed the FY 2012 Defense Authorization bill late, which includes several authorization measures to strengthen the nation’s nuclear triad and unmanned aerial systems program. The authorizations will directly benefit both Minot and Grand Forks Air Force Bases. 

“The military project authorizations we passed last night will help to keep our military strong and our country safe,” Hoeven said. “It’s vital that our armed services have up-to-date, modern resources to defend our nation at home and abroad.” 

In support of the nation’s nuclear defenses, the Senate authorized more than $500 million for Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (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, the Senate last night authorized $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 base will also benefit from several maintenance and construction projects, including authorization of $68 million for a new 128-room dormitory and maintenance projects for the B-52 fleet. 

The Defense Authorization bill also authorizes $868 million to fully 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.  

Senators 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. Congress must appropriate and authorize funding for the Defense Department to proceed with the projects, and last night’s action brings the projects one step closer to final approval. 

The Senate decided to act next week on a range of amendments attached to the bill, including two measures introduced by Hoeven. The first is Senate Amendment 1279, a measure Hoeven authored that reaffirms the importance of a robust nuclear defense through sustaining the “nuclear triad,” which includes land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and nuclear-capable heavy bomber jets. The second measure is Amendment 1358, which calls for continued investments in the Global Hawk unmanned aerial system program, in accordance with a Pentagon review that found the Global Hawk to be cost effective and essential to national security.