Delegation Presses Air Force Leadership on Defense Priorities

Retaining Manned Flying Mission for NDANG Critical to National Defense, Delegation says

Washington – Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven and Congressman Rick Berg today met with top Air Force leadership – including Air Force Secretary Michael Donley - to reemphasize the vital role North Dakota’s Air Force Bases and Air National Guard play in America’s national defense.

“When you factor in the vital missions performed in North Dakota and our strategic location along the northern tier, it’s clear to us that the Air Force Bases in Minot and Grand Forks should continue to play an important role in keeping America safe,” the delegation said in a joint statement. “That means Grand Forks should be selected as a home to the KC-46 refueling tanker. It means the nation’s nuclear deterrent – including the dual missions in Minot – should remain intact. And it means that our Unmanned Aerial Systems program must continue to thrive.”

The delegation took the opportunity to press Secretary Donley and Air Force Leadership on the candidacy of Grand Forks Air Force Base to house the KC-46 Air Refueling Tanker. As home to the previous generation tankers, the delegation noted that much of the necessary infrastructure for the new tanker is well established in Grand Forks.

The Air Force has indicated that the criteria for the new tanker bases will be established in March, with candidates for the first tankers announced in June. A basing decision on the first tanker units is expected in December.

While the President’s budget did not call for any immediate cuts to the nation’s nuclear deterrent, the delegation noted its hesitation as the Administration begins to consider implementation of the new START Treaty. The delegation said any additional cuts to the nation’s nuclear deterrent must be made in the context of arms control negotiations with the Russians.

Finally, the delegation also took the opportunity to press Secretary Donley on the necessity of retaining a manned flying mission for the North Dakota Air National Guard. With the proposed cancellation of the C-27J mission and the scheduled conclusion of the C-21 mission, Fargo’s Happy Hooligans would be left without a manned flying mission, making North Dakota the only state in the nation without one. The delegation said the state’s Air Guard stands ready to execute the newly assigned intelligence mission, but more can and should be done by the Guardsmen in Fargo.