Hoeven: Air Force Secretary & Chief of Staff Confirm Importance of Modernizing Nuclear Triad, Developing Pilot Training and Arctic Mission

At Defense Appropriations Hearing, Senator Reviews North Dakota Priorities in FY2020 Air Force Budget Request

WASHINGTON – At a Senate Defense Appropriations Committee hearing this week, Senator John Hoeven reviewed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget with U.S. Air Force (USAF) Secretary Heather Wilson and USAF Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who confirmed the importance of updating the nation’s nuclear forces, developing pilot training programs and advancing the Arctic mission. Hoeven is working to modernize the nuclear triad, which is vital to Minot Air Force Base, and to support both pilot training programs and the Arctic mission for Grand Forks Air Force Base. 

“Our state makes tremendous contributions to the nation’s security and is positioned to play an even bigger role,” Hoeven said. “The nuclear triad is only growing in importance as we see hostile regimes working to secure a nuclear weapon or grow their existing nuclear arsenals. That’s why it’s vital we continue to modernize our nuclear forces, like the bomber fleet and ICBMs in Minot, while also replacing Minot’s helicopters to improve security. At the same time, we should build on the funding we secured for the Air Force to use flight schools like UND in addressing the pilot shortage and make use of the region’s UAS expertise to help secure the Arctic. This week’s hearing with Secretary Wilson and Gen. Goldfein was a great opportunity to advance these priorities, and I appreciate their continued willingness to work with us on these important matters.”

MINOT – Nuclear Modernization & Helicopter Replacement

Through his role on the Defense Appropriations Committee, Hoeven is working to ensure updates to the nation’s nuclear forces remain on schedule so the U.S. will have a strong deterrent for decades to come. Hoeven reviewed the progress of these efforts with Secretary Wilson and Gen. Goldfein, after having secured strong support in FY2019 for the following elements of the state’s nuclear missions:  

  • The Long Range Stand Off (LRSO) missile to replace the aging Air Launched Cruise Missile carried on the B-52.
  • The Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) fleet, including the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program to replace the Minuteman III.
  • Upgrades for the B-52, including new engines.
  • A replacement for the Vietnam-era Huey helicopters that provide security for the ICBM silos.

Further, the senator recently introduced a bipartisan resolution supporting the modernization and maintenance of the nation’s ICBM fleet. Hoeven has also raised these issues with the President, stressing the need to respond to Russia’s nuclear advancements and to hold this adversary to its arms control commitments.

GRAND FORKS – Pilot Training & Arctic Mission

Hoeven has been working to leverage the University of North Dakota’s (UND) expertise to help alleviate the nation’s pilot shortage. To this end, the senator has advanced partnerships between UND and federal agencies, creating new opportunities for the flight school’s students. This includes:

  • Securing funding for Air Force ROTC cadets and helicopter pilots to train at flight schools like UND
  • Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Pathways Program, through which students can be recruited as air interdiction agents.
  • Helping to introduce the American Aviator Act last Congress. This bipartisan legislation would support flight-training services for veterans who want to become commercial airline pilots.

Hoeven has also worked in recent years to secure an Arctic mission for Grand Forks. The senator previously hosted USAF General Lori Robinson, leader of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and Commander, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), for a meeting and tour at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and Grand Sky. 

During her visit, Hoeven highlighted the unique convergence of the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) research, training and operations in the region and how the base is well-positioned to support NORTHCOM’s efforts to strengthen security in the Arctic region. Hoeven also led a delegation to NORTHCOM headquarters in 2014 toward this same goal.