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Rounds: US defense strategy shifts to the Pacific

Air Force

Two years after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States military is shifting its focus on the Pacific.

Officials say Ellsworth Airforce Base and a local business will play a crucial role in addressing what they call the country’s next threat.

The country’s national defense strategy says the next threat is likely to come from China.

Christopher Lowman, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, said the Ellsworth Airforce Base in Box Elder is a “critical capability to project power out of the United States.”

“It certainly holds tremendous deterrence value," Lowman said. "The ability to project strategic bombers out of Ellsworth globally, and then return back to Ellsworth is a really key strategic deterrence to our adversaries, especially in the Asian theatre—the Pacific theatre.”

Lowman, along with US Senator Mike Rounds toured VRC Metals in Box Elder, which makes cold-spray equipment that they say will allow the military to make critical repairs closer to conflict.

The Air Force is still in the process of onboarding the B-21 Raider—a next-generation stealth bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

In the past, US Senator Mike Rounds has called the B-21 a “China deterrent weapon.”

Rounds sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, as well as the Select Committee on Intelligence. He said the bomber will be a key factor in the Pacific.

“Because of its range and capabilities to break down doors, if necessary, to get in and destroy some of their offensive capabilities," Rounds said. "But in the meantime, you still got folks that on the ground in those locations, whether it be in the Philippines, Taiwan, Guam, and other locations that could be at risk, or the supply lines could be impaired.”

Rounds said B-21 production is still on schedule and the first one is expected to take flight later this year.

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.
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