Sen. John Hoeven on Thursday updated members of Task Force 21 in Minot about his efforts to press the Pentagon to retain missile silos in the Upper Midwest.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the ICBM Coalition, Hoeven authored a provision in the Department of Defense appropriations bill that explicitly blocks the Obama administration from undertaking any environmental analysis to reduce the number of active silos containing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, all of which are located at bases in the Upper Midwest. Hoeven is concerned that the study is designed to facilitate the removal of the missiles and destruction of the silos, weakening the nation's nuclear deterrent.
The Defense Department, however, has tried to find a way around the Hoeven language and appears to be pressuring the Air Force to hurry the study. Historically it has needed far longer to conduct a study than currently remains available. The Air Force usually needs more than a year to conduct environmental studies, but has only six months for any study to inform decisions about how U.S. forces will be structured to meet the U.S.-Russian New START treaty requirements.
To press the issue, Hoeven has asked the Air Force to outline a standard timeline for an environmental assessment, which should make clear that time has run out. If DOD still attempts to circumvent the Hoeven amendment, Hoeven said he would explore other legal options to block the study.
However, citing uncertainty regarding the legality of continuing with the study, DOD has announced it will now put a hold on it as officials determine whether they can proceed.
"Minot Air Force Base is a benefit to North Dakota and the community of Minot, but far more importantly, we need to remember that it protects all of America," Hoeven said. "Russian aggression under Vladimir Putin and recent events in Ukraine demonstrate that we need to be strengthening our military deterrents and defenses, not dismantling them as the world confronts a Russia bent on expansion."
Hoeven also discussed three military construction projects on the Minot base. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the senator worked to secure more than $30 million in funding for construction and maintenance projects in the Fiscal 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill. The legislation includes three major projects for Minot Air Force Base:
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.
In addition, Hoeven said the project to replace the center section of the runway is proceeding on schedule and should be finished at the end of the summer. Total funding awarded by Congress for the runway project is $67 million total, with $32.8 million awarded for work in Fiscal Year 2014.