May 28, 2024

Defense bill includes pay raises; funds for Malmstrom, MANG construction; language for Sentinel

Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act in mid-December for the current federal fiscal year.

The annual defense spending bill now goes to the President’s desk for final approval.

This year’s legislation includes a 5.2 percent pay increase for servicemembers and civilian employees.

The bill, approved by both Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines, who in press releases, both touted the provisions as their wins for the state.

The NDAA includes:

  • $10.3 million for construction and land acquisition at Malmstrom Air Force Base that will go towards a new fire station bay and storage area;
  • $30 million to construct new fueling facilities at the 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana Air National Guard in Great Falls to support the fueling of aircraft assigned to MANG and to provide a gas station, including fuel storage, fuel off-loading, fuel dispensing and an operations building for fueling operations.

The NDAA also requires the Secretary of the Air Force to refurbish and make operable not fewer than 150 silos for the LGM–35A Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile at each of the missile bases, including Malmstrom.

Air Force awards $996 million contract for Sentinel component

The bill authorizes the use of contracts using cost-plus incentive-fee contracting for military construction projects
associated the Sentinel missile weapon system program for not more than one low-rate initial production lot at each of the missile bases.

In October, the Air Force awarded a $996,215,214 contract to Lockheed Martin for the engineering, manufacturing and design to provide a low technical risk and affordable reentry vehicle for the Sentinel missile.

Sentinel is the ground based strategic deterrent that will replace the existing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system.

The contract is part of the MK21A RV program for the Air Force through a sole source acquisition.

The work is expected to be completed by Oct. 20, 2039.

Construction on Sentinel project set to begin

Research, development, test and evaluation funds from the fiscal year 2024 budget totaling $26,612,031 were obligated at the time of the contract award, according to the Air Force.

The Air Force awarded a $108 million contract to Lockheed Martin for the technology maturation and risk reduction portion of the project in 2019.

Lockheed Martin worked with the Air Force and the National Nuclear Security Administration to develop the RVs with the capability to deliver the W87-1 warhead that will be on the Sentinel missiles, according to the company.

Daines, Tester visit local military bases; discuss Sentinel, Grey Wolf, cancer study

The Sentinel Program Integration office at Malmstrom Air Force base said that there will be two locations for the project in Montana. One of those will be in Great Falls, the other in Lewistown.

Both will be about 50-60 acres of land that has not yet been purchased or leased, with about 2,500 to 3,000 personnel, with their own dining facility, gym, recreation center and be completely contained within a fenced area. Northrop Grumman, the contractor, will provide security, patrol the area and control access, according to Malmstrom.

Sentinel program staff has spoken with the fire and police chiefs in Great Falls and Lewistown, as well as area tribes, about the locations.

Sentinel missile system completes another test

According to the Sentinel office, field work on the weapon system replacement won’t start until 2030 at the earliest.

The Air Force signed off on the environmental record of decision in May 2023 for Sentinel, the ground based strategic deterrent that will replace the Minuteman III missile system currently in use.

That means the construction phase of the multi-billion-dollar missile system can begin, according to the Air Force.

The signed decision meant officials could move forward with permitting and construction for the project at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

Project activities at Malmstrom are expected to begin in 2026 and at Minot in North Dakota in 2029.

Sentinel ICBM system completes flight tests

The Air Force determined that replacing the current ICBM system would be cheaper than extending the life of the Minuteman III system and the new system is expected to last through 2075, according to the Air Force.

Malmstrom maintains 150 ICBM silos across its 13,800-square-mile complex in central Montana. The Air Force also operates silos at the F.E. Warren and Minot. According to the Department of Defense, there are 450 silos in the U.S. with 400 missiles deployed at any time.

In September 2020, the Air Force awarded a $13.3 billion engineering and manufacturing development contract to Northrop Grumman for GBSD.

The project includes modernizing and replacing all launch facilities, communication systems, infrastructure, and technologies as necessary to support the GBSD system, according to the Air Force.

Air Force signs Sentinel agreement with tribes, preservation, government agencies

The record of decision details the findings of the Air Force’s analysis of environmental, natural resource and cultural considerations in the construction of the Sentinel project. The document identifies the selected course of action and how the Air Force intends to avoid, minimize or mitigate environmental impacts as much as possible for the life of the project, according to the Air Force.

The legislation also requires military officials to develop a plan to decrease the amount of time required to upload additional warheads to the ICBM force, in the event that the president directs such an action.

According to the NDAA, the plan must also include an assessment of the storage capacity of weapons storage areas and any weapons generation facilities at the ICBM bases and their capacity to store additional warheads.

In June, the Air Force awarded a $376,929,000 firm-fixed-price contract to Archer Western Federal JV of Chicago to construct a weapon storage and maintenance facility at Malmstrom.

Business Bites: Crumbl Cookies opening; readings at Cassiopeia Books; Malmstrom contracts; Montana Mosaic moved

The project is estimated to be completed in 2027, according to the Air Force.

The new weapons generation facility will “consolidate weapon maintenance, storage and training functions required to support the intercontinental ballistic missile and bomber missions. Currently this mission resides in weapons storage areas which were built in the 1960s and 1970. The new WGFs will bring the facilities up to current standards and reduce the number of facilities overall,” according to an AFGSC spokesperson.

The NDAA also requires an assessment of the current nuclear warhead transportation capacity and workforce of the National Nuclear Security Administration and associated timelines for transporting additional nuclear warheads to missile bases; an evaluation of the capacity and limitations of the maintenance squadrons and security forces at missile bases and the associated timelines for adding warheads to the ICBM force; an identification of actions that would address any identified limitations to upload additional warheads; an evaluation of courses of actions to upload additional warheads to a portion of the ICBM force; an assessment of the feasibility and advisability of initiating immediate deployment of W78 warheads to a single wing of the ICBM force as a hedge against delay of the LGM–35A Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile; and any policy considerations that would need to be addressed, including any guidance and direction that would required, to execute the plan.

U.S. pursuing 5-year extension to New START, treaty that regulates ICBMs [2021]

The NDAA language is reflective of recommendations from a report this fall from the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the U.S. that calls for expediting modernization of existing nuclear assets and expanding the arsenal with actions including uploading “some or all of the” unemployed warheads and deploying additional ICBMs, among other measures due to threats from Russia and China.

AF has removed 50 missiles to meet New START requirements [2017]

The U.S. is bound by the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, but Russia has essentially stopped complying with the treaty that the U.S. has stated is still in force.

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