Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D), a proponent for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) nuclear modernization effort, is the new chair of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee (SAC-D).

Tester will now oversee the $700-plus billion defense budgeting process, citing the role as a strong platform to advocate for his home state’s Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana National Guard.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

“I’m honored to take on this new role that’ll give me the opportunity to better fight for our service members in Montana, across the country, and around the world,” Tester said in a statement. “Ensuring our service members, our defense installations like Malmstrom, and intelligence agencies have the resources they need to protect us here at home and continue America’s dominance on the world stage is a solemn responsibility that I take seriously. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work with Republicans and Democrats to defend our country.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who announced this week he will not seek reelection in 2022, will remain as the top Republican on the subcommittee (Defense Daily, Feb. 8). 

Tester succeeds Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) as the top Democrat on SAC-D, after Durbin opted to give up his spot so he could take over as the leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee (Defense Daily, Dec. 11). 

Following the passage of the latest defense policy bill, Tester noted he secured several investments in nuclear modernization initiatives that could benefit Malmstrom AFB, one of three bases to house intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). 

He specifically noted the $1.5 billion in GBSD research and development, to advance the effort to replace the current Minuteman III ICBMs.

Tester is also an advocate for the Air Force’s effort to replace its UH-1N Hueys with the MH-139 Grey Wolf, noting the $194 million authorized in the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the effort. 

“The 120th Airlift Wing is a unit of the Montana Air National Guard, stationed at Great Falls Air National Guard Base at Great Falls International Airport, where they fly the C-130H Hercules,” Tester’s office wrote in a statement following the FY ‘21 NDAA’s passage. “For years, Tester has been a champion for the 120th Airlift Wing ensuring vital modernizations and upgrades to the C-130 fleet.”

Tester cites having “successfully secured” $655 million in the FY ‘21 NDAA for the Air Force to purchase seven more C-130Js, $140 million for C-130H upgrades and “language requiring the Air Force to maintain at least 287 tactical airlift aircraft, to prevent future elimination of C-130 units.”