Following a 19 hour flight, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Schepper stepped out of the B-1 Lancer at Ellsworth Air Force Base and was surrounded by family and fellow airmen. This wasn’t a typical flight. In fact, this flight marked over 5,000 hours of flight time in the B-1 for Lt. Col. Schepper – a milestone that no one else in the world has reached. I would like to not only congratulate Lt. Col. Schepper for this incredible achievement, but also the many airmen that have come before him and will come after him, for their service to our great country.

While the next generation bomber is on track to be in service by the mid-2025s, the B-1 bombers are still the workhorses of our nation’s bomber fleet and have been part of military operations in Afghanistan for over a decade.  Early last year, the B-1 flew its 10,000th combat mission.  

It is crucial that our military’s readiness is not jeopardized due to recent budget cuts, which is why I voted for and supported multiple efforts to replace these so-called sequester cuts with targeted and responsible spending reductions that did not disproportionately affect our nation’s armed forces.  Additionally, I have cosponsored legislation to prevent another planned round of military budget cuts by slowing the growth of the federal workforce and freezing congressional pay.

Earlier this year the Air Force planned to ground the B-1s for the rest of the year.  I had the opportunity to question the Air Force during a House Armed Services Committee hearing about the impact the decision may have on military readiness.  The Air Force then allowed for flying on a limited basis and has now announced that flying hours have been restored. This decision is absolutely vital and in the best interests of our country’s defense. I believe we have a responsibility and a duty to ensure that our men and women are fully prepared and equipped for their military missions.

I will continue to fight for the B-1 bomber and all the missions and airmen, not only at Ellsworth but across the state of South Dakota. Lt. Col. Schepper has proudly served this country for decades and we owe it to him, and every other service member, to support and provide for our armed forces during their missions and after they return home. 

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