Weekly Column

In my eight years in the Nebraska Legislature I worked on many issues, from transportation and infrastructure to agriculture and the economy. I brought these issues Nebraskans care about most with me to the Senate. But when I arrived in Washington, I added another major focus area to this list – national security – and I was able to secure a position on the important Senate Armed Services Committee.

The federal government provides for the national defense. And crucially, that defense is the government’s most fundamental duty. We can disagree on how any number of policies might affect our country, but without a strong military, we would have no country at all.

As you may know, one of the most important military bases in the country is located right here in Nebraska. Offutt Air Force Base is home not just to STRATCOM, the unified command that oversees our nuclear weapons, but also to the 55th Wing, an Air Force unit that carries out critical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions all around the world.

The 55th Wing has been stationed at Offutt for more than 50 years – but the runway they use is even older. It dates all the way back to World War II, and even though parts of it have been updated since then, we have needed a replacement for decades.

Getting that new runway funded has been one of my highest priorities since I was elected to the Senate. My position on the Senate Armed Services Committee has allowed me to raise this issue with some of the highest-ranking officials in the Department of Defense and the Air Force.

In 2015, I was able to help make sure the Air Force had the resources they needed to study and prepare for this project. I am also proud to say that 2018’s National Defense Authorization Act included provisions I wrote that incentivized the Air Force to finish the runway as soon as possible. 

Those years of hard work paid off. In 2019, the Air Force announced that they would be replacing the entire runway. And at the end of January 2021, they started to move the first planes from Offutt to their temporary home at the Lincoln Airport so they could begin construction.

The Air Force estimates that this project will take about two years to complete. But once they’re done, Offutt’s airmen will have the modern runway they need.

In the end, the Air Force officials I spoke with decided that this upgrade was in the best interest of the U.S. military. But it’s also in the best interest of our state. A new runway shows the Air Force’s commitment to keeping the 55th Wing and the thousands of jobs it provides in Nebraska for decades to come.

I could not be more pleased that the Air Force is moving ahead with their promise to our state. Because of this runway, in just two short years Offutt will be a better home to the Air Force – and the Air Force will be a better partner to Nebraska. 

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