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Annual defense bill has billions for B-21, millions for Ellsworth

Air Force

South Dakota congressional leaders are celebrating the passage of the annual defense bill, which will bring millions of dollars to the state.

About $280 million is earmarked for Ellsworth Airforce Base as it continues rolling out the red carpet for a nuclear-capable stealth bomber.

U.S. Sen. John Thune says he's committed to ensuring Ellsworth has what it needs to achieve its new mission.

“So it can continue to serve as one of our nation’s essential military assets for decades to come,” Thune says. “To that end, I worked to ensure that this year’s national defense authorization act contained not only full funding for B-21 development, but full funding for the first of many equipment and support facilities needed for the B-21 mission at Ellsworth.”

The defense bill includes $2.87 billion for further B-21 development.

The bill also includes $6.5 million for stratospheric balloon research by Raven Aerostar, based in Sioux Falls. It also authorizes nearly $10 million for the Joe Foss Field F-16 Mission Training Center.

The new defense bill blocks states from using private funds to deploy National Guard troops, unless it’s in response to a major disaster.

Earlier this year, Governor Kristi Noem sent National Guard troops to the U.S.—Mexico border. The governor’s office says the deployment was paid for by a Tennessee billionaire.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.