WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today met with a top U.S. Air Force official to press for additional details on how the Air Force will uphold its commitments to protect the interests of aviators, businesses, agricultural producers, and communities in its proposal to expand the Powder River Training Complex Airspace.
The meeting with Kathleen Ferguson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, took place on the heels of Heitkamp’s call on the Air Force to improve its plan so that local communities and businesses can directly access more and real-time information about Air Force plans to use Powder River, and to have communities' concerns heard by the Air Force. Additionally, she asked the Air Force to make sure the needs of impacted medical facilities are fully considered, and agreements with businesses and airports include enough flexibility to handle changing circumstances.
“Protecting the livelihood and the economic interests of our communities, airports and businesses – as well as rural access to medical care – will always be a top priority for me,” said Heitkamp. “That’s why I met with Air Force officials today to make sure that aviators and businesses have a direct communications line to the Air Force Powder River operations so they can get the information they need, and the answers to their questions, right when they need it. From this meeting, I’m encouraged by the Air Force’s commitment to answer those communications concerns and heed the economic needs of impacted communities. I’ll keep pressing the Air Force and working with all sides to make sure we protect not only our national security interests, but our commercial interests as well.”
In December, Heitkamp called on U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to make sure its plan for the expansion of the Powder River airspace includes up-to-the-minute communication with pilots and businesses so they can get their questions answered without unnecessary bureaucracy, protections for access to rural health care, and flexibility for businesses and airports to expand and adapt to changing situations, such as weather.