Washington, D.C. – At a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins questioned General Daniel R. Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, on the Air Force’s plans to modernize its aging air tanker fleet and the Maine Air National Guard’s (MEANG) 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor, also known as the “MAINEiacs.” She also discussed the National Guard’s current planning to support Border Patrol agents at the southern border next fiscal year.
“General, the average age of the Maine National Guard's 10 KC-135 stationed in Bangor is over 60 years old. The ‘MAINEiacs,’ as they're often called, are pressed into service to operate all over the world. And Bangor's a critical location for flights crossing the Atlantic,” said Senator Collins. “Can you provide us with some insight on the road map that the Guard and the Air Force are using to recapitalize this aging tanker fleet and ensure that units like Bangor, which are in strategic geographic locations, are able to continue their vital mission long into the future?”
Noting the importance of the nation’s KC-135 fleet to the nation’s defense, General Hokanson said, “We're working with the Air Force to make sure we've got a 25-year plan. I think some of these aircraft may be approaching 100 years old, but the recapitalization and investment in those airframes is critical so that we can maintain that required capability and capacity for our nation.”
Transitioning to the ongoing crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, Senator Collins said, “I've recently traveled to the southwest border and witnessed the ongoing crisis there. I very much appreciate the work of the Maine guardsmen and women who have been supporting the Border Patrol in Arizona.”
Senator Collins asked General Hokanson, “I understand that the Department of Defense has received a request from the Department of Homeland Security to continue supporting these border deployments beyond the end of the Fiscal Year. What is the status of the planning to extend the Guard’s presence into the new Fiscal Year?”
General Hokanson responded that the National Guard is looking at all options, “I know it's going through the Office of Secretary of Defense right now to determine how that's going to be resourced going forward.”
As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Collins continues to play a leading role in securing vital funding to support the National Guard.