Rep. Steve Daines: Montana’s Skies Are Closed

Since July 2008 I have been writing about the proposed Powder River Training Complex (PRTC) that would extend into southeastern Montana. The expanded training area would be used by B-1 and B-52 airplanes from Minot and Ellsworth Air Force Bases in North and South Dakota. Of course other planes from other bases could use the area, too. It would expand to about 28,000 square miles from the current 8,300 square miles.

I have supported the expansion from the beginning.

Unfortunately, the Montana congressional delegation has not supported the expansion for trivial reasons. Who knows, maybe some big donors live in the area and this is their ultimate reason for not supporting the expansion.

Since 2008, elected officials in Montana have basically told anyone and everyone that Montana’s skies are closed. Their backward thinking may have even caused the Montana Air National Guard to lose their jet fighter mission – plus hurt the chances of Malmstrom AFB (near Great Falls) from ever getting another flying mission – or getting an aerospace contractor to relocate to Montana to use Malmstrom’s closed runway.

The Associated Press yesterday reported that freshman Congressman Steve Daines has “asked the Air Force to remove from its plans a vast swath of airspace above southeast Montana, northwest South Dakota and southwest North Dakota.”

That is a totally asinine move on Daines’ behalf. Daines has proven, once again, that he has little or no experience when it comes to military issues. Sadly, all indications are that he will never give a damn about expanding the military’s role in Montana.

U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD) understands our military and has supported the expansion from the beginning. It will also save millions of dollars and allow crews to train closer to home. According to information posted on his website:

By expanding the current training space and allowing for the B-1 Bombers to conduct exercises closer to home, the Air Force will also be saving millions of dollars in flight hours over the long-term. Had the PRTC been completed in 2013, the Air Force estimates it would have saved $21 million during that year alone.

I applaud Thune for his tireless work on the expansion and his support for our military. It’s too bad Montanans who support the military have to go all the way to South Dakota to find an elected official who supports them.

It’s also troubling to see all this happen after Daines was one of the “Special guests” at Thune’s fundraiser in West Virginia over the weekend. Daines’ attendance might not have been so “Special” if Thune knew what he was proposing.

Note: You can read all my columns about the Powder River Training Complex by going to “Categories” on the right side of the screen, then clicking on the dropdown menu and selecting “Powder River Training Complex.”

 

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11 thoughts on “Rep. Steve Daines: Montana’s Skies Are Closed

  1. How does Montana benefit from the military flying flights over Montana? Would curtailing some of those help with that federal deficit?

    • Greg – Thanks for your comments. In regard to how Montana would benefit it would show the military and aerospace companies that Montana’s skies are open and available for use. They need to train in less populated areas. As for curtailing the flights, the pilots and crews must train. If they were able to use that area, it would have saved the government $21 million last year. -JmB

      • Saved the government $21 million…that’s an interesting way to say how much money would be spent. We’ve got $17 trillion in debt…I don’t need flights, I need a decent credit rating for this country and a future for my kids.

      • Greg – Thanks. I imagine you want your kids to have freedom, too. A well-trained military would help with that. -JmB

      • Wow, your rhetoric skills could use some work if that’s the only argument you’ve got for me. Do I like freedom? Really, that’s it, that’s your argument for tackling that $17 trillion debt and that’s your rebuttal to my earlier comment. Good luck with that – guess I don’t need this site on my bookmark bar.

  2. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/feb/19/air-force-seeks-comment-on-expanded-training-site/?page=all

    On Tuesday, Montana Democratic Sens. Jon Tester and John Walsh wrote to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III to state their opposition.

    They argued the training center presented a safety risk, given that a B-1B bomber from Ellsworth crashed near Broadus in August. Range fires and damage to livestock are also a concern, the senators said. There are also 33 small airports in the flight area, sacred tribal lands and the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

    Walsh, former adjutant general of the Montana National Guard, agrees with the need for training but said it would have too much of an effect on the ground.

    “This cannot come at the expense of Montana’s lands, historic sites or creating an increased risk to public safety,” Walsh told the newspaper, arguing the expansion could lead to restricted commercial travel, disruption of livestock and safety risks.

    Jackie you call out Daines by name but only make an oblique reference to Tester and Walsh. Why the disparate treatment?

    • Craig:

      Today’s column was about the move by Daines that was in the news. If you look at my columns about PRTC every single one of the members of the MT delegation, from Max Baucus, Denny Rehberg, Jon Tester, John Walsh and Steve Daines have all been called out for their non-support of this plan.

      You can read all my columns about the Powder River Training Complex by going to “Categories” on the right side of the screen, then clicking on the dropdown menu and selecting “Powder River Training Complex.”

      Thanks for dropping by,

      -JmB

      • Enjoy your writing. Hope you continue. Many blogs going dry.

        As to the PRTC, I saw where the Billings Gazette had this piece. http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/article_e4d05207-739d-54ba-93d6-84c78e8e0633.html

        When you dinged Daines:

        That is a totally asinine move on Daines’ behalf. Daines has proven, once again, that he has little or no experience when it comes to military issues.

        I wonder if your criticism applies to Walsh’s opposition? Now if Walsh knows the military issues but comes to the same conclusion as Daines, how do you explain this? IF Daines had the military experience and knowledge, same as Walsh, but still came to the same conclusion as Walsh, what would explain this? Don’t know, just asking.

      • Thanks Craig. As for Walsh, I had hoped he would be different on this issue but he has not been. Back in April I wrote about the loss of missiles and about the PRTC, “While Tester and Daines are ignorant in regard to military matters, I expected more from Walsh, who is a career military man. I expected a lot more from him than piggy-backing on a press release from Tester which basically said all is well. Beam me up, Scotty…” -JmB

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