House Armed Services subcommittee members visit base

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Two members of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces got an upclose look at Minot Air Force Base and the Minot missile complex this weekend.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., is the chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces and Rep. Jim Cooper is the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee.

On Saturday, they visited facilities of the 5th Bomb Wing and the 91st Missile Wing on base and also a missile alert facility in the Minot missile complex.

At a news conference late Saturday afternoon, Rogers said since he and Cooper took over the subcommittee in January, they felt it would be important to visit many of the facilities under their

jurisdiction to get a good grasp of the missions and assets their capabilities as well as the wear and tear on the facilities. Both have been members of the House Armed Services Committee for some time, Rogers said.

Cooper, noting their visit on Saturday to both bomb wing and missile wing facilities, said, “Both are very impressive. As you know, this is the only base in the world where you have two legs of the triad (B-52s and intercontinental ballistic missiles) so it’s a very important place for America and for the world and we’re proud to be here.”

“A very impressive operation too the leadership as well as the manpower, not to mention the mission,” Rogers added.

In reference to the sequestration, Rogers said he has been quite disturbed by the sequestration to defense, particularly the area that he and Cooper have jurisdiction over which is strategic forces.

“We are in dire need of serious modernization monies and all this is doing is making more expensive the efforts that we’re going to have to put into place ultimately. They’ve been problematic, but I do hope people know that we’re still safe and secure as a nation. But we have to remember that it requires continued investment and we don’t see those in large enough numbers in the immediate future,” Rogers said.

“There is some good news,” Cooper said. “Right before we left Washington, House Republicans and Democrats worked together to pass overwhelming a budget that offers some relief on sequestration for the military for two years so that’s progress in the right direction. We hope our friends in the Senate will follow that fine example. Many of us are worried about what the Senate will do this week but it’s possible by Wednesday or Thursday of this week, they will also okay a similar budget.”

Rogers said the budget that was passed in the House has eased the budget cuts. “But it’s not eliminated totally the cuts that we’re going to have to make over the next nine years. But it’s pushed back some of the more painful cuts for two years,” he said.

He said his goal is to see the sequestration cuts eliminated totally. He said he thinks it was a mistake on the part of the Congress, it needs to be recognized and acknowledged that it was a mistake. “That’s hard for some of our folks to do but at least what we did this past week with the budget gave some relief and some stability so our military planners can make adjustments accordingly,” Rogers said.

Cooper said the budget problems are so urgent that they can’t just be talked about any longer. “It’s going to take a real day of reckoning for the American people to understand that we really didn’t pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and there are many other things we just put on the national credit card for too long,” he said.

In regard to a recent administration proposal to close an intercontinental ballistic missile squadron and destroy the missile silos, Rogers said, “I do know that there’s some discussion… but to my understanding, it’s squashed.” Shutting down a squadron would eliminate 50 ICBMs. Rogers said he did not know the location of the squadron that was proposed to be closed.

The two congressional members noted the good relationship between the base and the local community.

“There are good things going on here in Minot,” Cooper said. He said he learned during his visit this weekend that Minot AFB has one of the largest groups of military housing in the country. He said they saw some of the privatized housing while here.

Rogers said he observed that the military members at Minot AFB are very dedicated and committed to their work and also appear to be acclimated to the North Dakota climate, something the Alabama and Tennessee representatives noted they now have experienced firsthand.

“I agree with Mike extremely impressive men and women in uniform,” Cooper said, noting that’s whether they’re at the bottom of a missile alert facility, working with nuclear weapons or doing other highly technical and vitally important work.

“This is an amazing group of people from all over America,” Cooper said. “It’s amazing who is here (He said they met a person who is from Puerto Rico) and how hard they are working, and what a good job they are doing for America.”

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Col. Alex Mezynski, commander of the 5th Bomb Wing, and Col. Robert Vercher, commander of the 91st Missile Wing, were among those accompanying Rogers and Cooper on the tour Saturday.