Mission after mission, whether we need to respond to terrorists in the Middle East or deter a tyrannical North Korean dictator, America turns to Ellsworth Air Force Base. I’m awfully proud of that.

Still, when I began representing South Dakota in the U.S. House, there was widespread concern that Ellsworth was on the Obama administration’s list of potential base closures. With our national security at stake, I couldn’t allow that to happen. We fought back and were able to make sure the option was taken off the table.

In the years since, we’ve only enhanced Ellsworth’s value to the U.S. military. The South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority has done tremendous work building a community of support around the base, which is an important factor when the U.S. Defense Department looks at maintaining its bases.

We have also expanded the Powder River Training Complex, which is reserved air space near the base. Nothing can replace the value of air time for our airmen. Proper training and readiness are critical to our airmen’s safety and success in the field. With the expansion of air space at Powder River, Ellsworth and the U.S. Air Force now have critical access to one of the largest training ranges in the country. Moreover, by expanding the training facility near Ellsworth, taxpayers will save about $23 million in fuel costs every year.

Most recently, the U.S. Air Force announced existing bomber bases like Ellsworth will remain bomber bases when the new B-21 bomber comes online. For decades, Ellsworth has been home to the B-1 bomber, among other planes. The bomber helped us both win the Cold War in the 1980’s and keep North Korea at bay today. But with a bomber’s average age around 40 years old, the fleet must be modernized. That upgrade will come in the form of the B-21.

When I first arrived in Congress, a modernized bomber wasn’t a guarantee. Months into my first term, an amendment was made on the House floor to delay the B-21’s development by a decade. Once again, I fought back, and the amendment was defeated.

In the years since, I’ve continued to push for a 21st Century upgrade to the Air Force’s bomber fleets. Finally, that looks to be around the corner. We expect the B-21 to begin arriving on bases in the mid-2020’s and Ellsworth is on the list. Over time, the B-21 will fully replace the B-1 and B-2 bombers: a much-needed modernization.

Our men and women in uniform serve with bravery, courage and patriotism, so we have an indisputable responsibility to provide them with the skills, training and equipment needed to win on modern-day battlefields. Ellsworth has long played an important role in that mission. With the Air Force’s most recent announcement, I’m thrilled Ellsworth will continue to serve a mission-critical role as home to America’s next-generation workhorse: the B-21 bomber.

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