Weekly Column

Oct 04 2022

Offutt Air Force Base

Offutt Air Force Base here in Nebraska plays a key role in our nation’s national security. Located in Sarpy County, the military base serves as the headquarters of U.S. Strategic Command, or STRATCOM. Offutt also hosts the 55th Wing, which conducts important global intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, and we are proud that they call Nebraska home.

Since Offutt supports multiple military communities and their unique operations, the base’s infrastructure is constantly in use. That includes the Offutt runway, which was originally constructed in 1941. Over the following eight decades, the runway experienced significant wear and tear. As the quality of the runway continued to deteriorate, something had to be done to ensure Offutt could continue to support STRATCOM, the 55th Wing, and our national security.

I am pleased to say that after many years of work, Offutt’s new runway was officially unveiled on Friday, September 30th. The event commemorating the occasion was great, and it was wonderful to see all the different individuals who contributed to this important undertaking. 

I first began working on the Offutt runway issue in 2013 when I had only recently joined the U.S. Senate. Speaking directly with the base’s leadership at the time, it was clear the state of the runway was extremely poor, and that was compromising the 55th Wing’s ability to carry out their duties. In fact, at the time, the Offutt runway had one of the lowest ratings among all of Air Combat Command’s runways. I immediately began working to alert the Air Force to the severity of the problem, as well as develop a solution to the problem. This included a number of meetings with the Secretary of the Air Force and other military leaders at the Pentagon.

Once we were able to build consensus around the gravity of the situation, it was time to act. In my role on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I directly contribute to the drafting of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an important piece of legislation that authorizes funding for the military and sets policy priorities for the Dept. of Defense. In the 2016 NDAA, I worked to authorize funding for the initial design work of the runway rebuild.

This is when things really began to take shape. In the subsequent years as design work on the runway progressed, I continued to work with my colleagues to ensure Congress authorized and appropriated sufficient, flexible funding to cover the project. Thanks to our persistent advocacy, we were able to help the plan evolve from simply patching some portions, to repaving, to eventually an agreement to fully replace the Offutt runway in January of 2019.

The physical rebuilding of the runway took over 18 months. During that time, the 55th Wing was relocated to Lincoln in order for them to continue conducting their missions.

As of September 30th, the 55th Wing has finally returned to Offutt Air Force Base. It was a long road to get to this juncture, but I’m thrilled our efforts paid off.

Since its original founding over 100 years ago during the infancy of aerial warfare, Offutt has helped protect our nation. The base has also served as an important part of the local community and our state’s economy. With this new runway in place, the men and women of Offutt can carry out their vital missions for years to come. I look forward to continuing to work to ensure our military has the infrastructure and resources it needs to carry out their missions and defend our country.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.