WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House and Senate Conference Committee released text of the FY 2019 Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bills, which contains the final outcome on negotiations over the OC-135B Open Skies replacement funding. The bill funds approximately $146 million to acquire the first new Open Skies plane through an open competition. U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), and U.S. Representative Don Bacon (R-Neb.) released the following statements:  

“This is a significant win for Offutt Air Force Base and the men and women who serve there. With this first step, the 55th Wing can continue to ensure the United States takes full advantage of this treaty and that we are not limited by airframes which can no longer fulfill their mission. I was proud to work closely with Secretary Mattis, Secretary Wilson, and the Appropriations Committee throughout the conference process, and am pleased that we reached an agreement that meets their needs,” said Senator Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.     

“A victory for Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and, most importantly, the defense of our nation,” Representative Fortenberry said. “The OC-135B helps keep the peace through critical arms control verification missions." 

“This was a textbook example of teamwork across the delegation. Together we made the case that our treaty obligations are important, and that our Airmen need the right tools to get the job done safely,” said Representative Bacon, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and former 55th Wing commander.   

The Open Skies Treaty allows the 34 signatory nations to gather information over other member nations through aerial imaging on military forces and activities of concern to them. This contributes significantly to greater transparency and stability across many key regions of the globe, which benefits both the United States and our allies and partners. Currently, the United States flies these missions with 1960s era OC-135B aircraft, and the Department of Defense has requested funding to replace these platforms with more modern planes that can fully execute the mission.

The Conference Report on the Defense/LaborHHS Minibus bill includes $146 million to begin the process of acquiring the first new Open Skies plane through an open competition. This agreement was negotiated with significant input from the Nebraska Delegation, with Senator Fischer, Rep. Don Bacon and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry all weighing in during conference negotiations. The final agreement will allow the Air Force to finish their full acquisition strategy, and meets the needs of the Secretary of Defense and the Air Force to start fielding these missions with aircraft that can take full advantage of the United States’ rights under the treaty agreement.