Powder River Training Complex: A Hail Mary?

Back in July 2008 I first wrote about the Powder River Training Complex (PRTC) and the proposal to expand it 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. 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 been in favor of the PRTC since the beginning.

PRTC will save millions of tax dollars because crews will train closer to home. If the area had been approved in 2013, the Air Force estimates it would have saved $21 million. (Source)

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.

Just last week, the Montana Congressional delegation attempted a “Hail Mary” type blitz. The Associated Press (AP) reported, “Montana U.S. Sens. Tester and John Walsh and Rep. Steve Daines told Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James in a Friday letter that the proposal would stifle economic development and threaten safety in the region.”

That’s absurd.

Sen. Tester told the AP, “We want the Air Force to address this. They’re moving pretty darn fast right now,” Tester said. “For those guys to open up the Powder River Basin without addressing our concerns is unacceptable.”

That was a moronic statement from Tester. The proposal to expand the training area has been out there for comment and discussion since May of 2008 – May of 2008. It has certainly not moved very fast.

The time is up – PRTC should be approved – now.

Montana’s elected leaders have basically placed a sign on Montana’s skies saying they are closed. Under Tester’s leadership, Montana lost F-15s at the Air National Guard and missiles from Malmstrom AFB as well as several hundred jobs. The anti-military thinking of elected officials like Tester and Daines 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.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James should take the latest letter from Tester, Walsh, and Daines and shred it – their concerns are not worth the cost of the paper it’s printed on.


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