WASHINGTON – In a meeting today with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Senator John Hoeven stressed the importance of North Dakota’s military bases to the nation’s security infrastructure.
“Minot Air Force Base is a key part of the nation’s military’s force structure and provides cost effective, efficient, top quality defense capabilities,” Hoeven said. “Grand Forks Air Force Base now has a growing role as a center for unmanned aerial systems, which are becoming increasingly critical to the nation’s defense overseas and at home.”
The Minot base provides critical support to the United States’ Nuclear Triad, which consists of strategic bombers, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles. Minot is home to the 5th Bomb Wing and the 91st Missile Wing, two legs of the triad, as well as the 17th Munitions Squadron.
Hoeven also stressed the importance of Grand Forks Air Force Base’s new unmanned aerial systems (UAS) mission. The Senator worked to include an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill that would significantly enhance UAS operations, technology and training. The measure would establish UAS test sites and training centers across the nation, with the goal of integrating UAS activities into the National Airspace. The bill has passed both houses of Congress and is now being reconciled in a conference committee of both houses.
This week Hoeven, the state’s congressional delegation and the governor called on FAA Administrator J. Randolph Babbitt to make North Dakota the first test site for integrating UAS into the National Airspace. In a letter to the Administrator, the North Dakota leaders offered the newly formed North Dakota UAS Integration Team as a resource to help establish the test site in North Dakota.
The Secretary also provided Hoeven with a briefing on the current status and future objectives of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas of conflict around the world. The Senator, who visited Afghanistan in April as part of a U.S. Senate mission, underscored the importance of maintaining a strong, flexible military, and said he would work in his position on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs to ensure support for the armed forces. Senator Hoeven and Secretary Panetta also discussed the enhanced role of the nation’s National Guard and Reserve forces, and the need to maintain the nation’s commitment to our troops and their families. As a former governor, Senator Hoeven expressed his appreciation and support to Secretary Panetta for the Guard and Reservists.