Defense authorization bill to impact Ellsworth AFB

BOX ELDER, S.D. — On Capitol Hill Wednesday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the defense bill with a $738 billion price tag.

After months of back and fourth, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020 passed the House with a sweeping majority. With the bill comes a 3% military pay raise, legislation to extend parental leave for federal employees to 12 weeks, the establishment of the United States Space Force and more.

In the bill, $3 million is set aside for the development of the B-21 Raider, a long range strike bomber set to land at Ellsworth Air Force Base in the mid-2020’s. The bomber will eventually replace the B-1 currently stationed at Ellsworth but is expected to fly well into the 2030’s.

As reported earlier this week, the B-1 may have to decrease the number of low-level flying missions, something it was designed for, in order to prolong its life.

Senator Mike Rounds publicly testified in the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year about the maintenance issues surrounding the B-1.

Now, a provision in the act calls for the Secretary of the Air Force to provide a briefing on the Air Force’s plans to keep the bomber ready for all missions.

The briefing is required to include the following elements:

  1.  A description of aircraft structural issues.
  2. A plan for continued structural deficiency data analysis and training.
  3. Projected repair timelines.
  4. Future mitigation strategies.
  5. An aircrew maintainer training plan, including a plan to ensure that the training pipeline remains steady, for any degradation period.
  6. A recovery timeline to meet future deployment tasking.
  7. A plan for continued upgrades and improvements.

That briefing is due by February 29th.

The bill also repeals the so called “widow’s tax” on military death benefits.

The provision previously required people whose spouses have been killed in action to forfeit benefits when they also received benefits from the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The bill now heads to the senate for approval.

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