Hoeven say more people coming to Minot AFB

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE More people will be assigned to Minot Air Force Base, possibly several hundred, Senator John Hoeven, R-N.D., announced Tuesday

Hoeven met Tuesday with Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, to discuss the Nuclear Force Improvement Program, which the Air Force launched earlier this year to strengthen the Air Force’s nuclear mission.

Wilson told Hoeven that as a result of the new initiative, he expects more than 1,000 personnel will be added to Global Strike Command, which is comprised of five bases, including Minot Air Force Base.

The general couldn’t provide a figure, but he said many will be stationed at Minot AFB, home to both a missile wing and the B-52 bomber wing.

A number of the new personnel will be senior noncommissioned officer positions, which require skills in security, maintenance and operational logistics. Wilson also said he expects the program to make investments in facilities at Global Strike Command’s five bases, including Minot AFB.

Overall, the goal of the Nuclear Force Improvement Program is to make organizational changes in the intercontinental ballistic missile force, improve facilities at nuclear bases and revise and improve nuclear training and evaluation procedures.

“The Air Force recognizes that the nuclear mission is a vital part of the Air Force and critical to the security of the United States, and additionally, that Minot Air Force Base is an important part of Global Strike Command,” Hoeven said. “Global Strike Command is adding a thousand personnel to the nuclear mission, and I anticipate that several hundred of those will come to Minot Air Force Base because we have both a bomber wing and a missile wing.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said, “The significant increase in personnel for the Global Strike Command is great news for Minot. It is also an affirmation by the Defense Department of the important work done by our brave servicemembers at Minot Air Force Base. The additional personnel will help the base in its critical mission, which for decades has helped keep our country safe. It is crucial that we keep this momentum going, and continue to push for more resources and support for our servicemembers and the community.”

Hoeven and Wilson also reviewed several modernization programs that will affect Minot’s B-52 and ICBM missions, including work on the nuclear cruise missile. Last week, Hoeven announced he would offer an amendment to accelerate work on the warhead that goes into the cruise missile carried by the B-52. The warhead is the first step toward the development of a new cruise missile that will be developed over the next decade.

Hoeven said that he and Wilson agreed that the ability of an air-launched cruise missile to strike an adversary at a distance is a vital part of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.”

Global Strike Command continues to upgrade the B-52 bomber by integrating “smart” weapons into the aircraft’s internal weapons bay and enhancing the aircraft’s communications capabilities. Global Strike Command is also working on upgrades that will extend the life of the Minuteman III ICBM while the Air Force completes a study on the next generation ICBM.

“Our nuclear forces cost about 4 percent of this year’s defense budget, which makes nuclear deterrence one of the best bargains in the Department of Defense,” Hoeven said. “Continued investment in nuclear forces makes good fiscal sense and good military sense. It will pay dividends for years to come.”

Wilson told Hoeven that the project to replace the main runway at Minot AFB is on schedule. Last year, the Air Force completed work on both ends of the runway, and this year it will invest $32.8 million to replace the center section of the runway. B-52s from Minot have rotated to Andersen AFB in Guam and to Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota while runway work proceeds. Congress has provided a total of $67 million for the runway project since 2012.

Minot AFB is the only location in the United States to host two legs of the nation’s triad of nuclear delivery systems. Minot hosts nuclear B-52 bombers and is one of three bases to operate and maintain ICBMs.

Hoeven is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Military Construction.