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Esper’s visit testament to Minot AFB

By Sen. John Hoeven

Last week, we joined U.S Secretary of Defense Mark Esper as he visited Minot Air Force Base to review its missions and address our servicemembers stationed there.

Minot Air Force Base, which is the only U.S. base to house two legs of our nuclear triad, plays a central role in our nation’s defense. Considering the major investments that our adversaries, like Russia and China, are making in their nuclear programs, this was a timely visit that allowed for the Secretary to see firsthand the importance of Minot Air Force Base.

Our foes are making upgrades specifically to overcome the capabilities of our existing nuclear triad. That’s why it’s so important that we continue our efforts to modernize our nuclear forces, including the B-52 bombers, cruise missiles and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles housed at Minot. That’s exactly what I’m working to do as a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee and it’s why we invited the secretary to visit the state during his confirmation process last year.

As a member of the committee responsible for funding our military, I have ensured that our annual appropriations bills make key upgrades to our nuclear forces. The Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations legislation, which was approved by Congress in December, provides full funding to keep nuclear modernization programs on, or ahead of, schedule.

We’ve been working to make upgrades to the B-52 bomber, and we secured funding to help procure new engines and ensure that these workhorse planes are operational now and into the future. At the same time, we are also supporting the development of new missiles for the B-52. To this end, we fully funded the Long Range Stand Off missile, a replacement for the aging Air Launched Cruise Missile currently carried on the B-52.

Additionally, the FY2020 Defense Appropriations bill provides funding for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, the replacement for the Minuteman III. While we work to upgrade our ICBMs, we also secured funding to keep us on track to replace the Vietnam-era UH-1N Huey helicopters used to provide security for our ICBM silos and to ensure that we have a facility to house these new helicopters.

Importantly, the President’s budget for the next fiscal year requests strong support for modernizing our nuclear deterrent, and with the support of Secretary Esper, we’ll work to ensure that these important priorities continue to be funded as work begins on the FY2021 appropriations bills.

We appreciate Secretary Esper’s willingness to come meet with our servicemembers and see firsthand their hard work, not only because we’re so proud of their service, but also because of how critical it is to the security of our nation. As the gate in front of the base says, “Only the best come north” and as a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, I will continue working to modernize our nuclear forces and support our men and women at Minot Air Force Base.

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