Hoeven Discusses New MQ-9 Operations Facility, Future of 119th Wing's Reaper Mission with Air Guard Director

Senator Hosts LTG Loh at Hector Field, Also Outlines Efforts to Strengthen Air Guard Education Benefits

FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven, along with Director of the Air National Guard Lieutenant General Michael Loh and North Dakota Adjutant General Alan Dohrmann, today reviewed the North Dakota Air National Guard 119th Wing’s operations based at Hector Field in Fargo. Hoeven previously invited LTG Loh to visit North Dakota to learn firsthand about the important role the 119th Wing plays in supporting military operations around the globe. The senator outlined opportunities to support and enhance the wing’s MQ-9 Reaper mission, as well as ongoing efforts to strengthen the education benefits available to Air Guard members. Specifically, Hoeven is working to: 

  • Secure a new MQ-9 operations center in Fargo.
    • Hoeven recently secured $17.5 million to construct the facility, with a groundbreaking anticipated later this year and completion expected in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023.
  • Support the MQ-9 Reaper for current and future Air Force operations.
    • Hoeven included $108 million for the purchase of additional MQ-9 aircraft in the FY2021 funding legislation to help maintain the production line and support the Reaper mission over the long-term.
  • Advance efforts with the Department of Defense (DoD) to:
    • Provide educational assistance for Air National Guardsmen.
    • Allow concurrent use of federal tuition assistance and GI bill benefits for Guard and Reserve members, similar to active duty service members.

“The 119th Wing has been recognized time and again for their excellence, and we appreciate LTG Loh for coming to Fargo to meet with this outstanding team and learn more about the important support they provide to missions around the world,” said Hoeven. “We’re working to ensure the success of the Reaper mission over the long-term. That includes securing funding for both the construction of the new operations center and the procurement of additional aircraft, which will help ensure a continued role for the MQ-9 in Air Force operations. At the same time, this visit was another opportunity to drive home the importance of providing our Air Guard members with the education benefits they have earned. That’s exactly what we’re working to do under the Air Guard’s tuition assistance pilot program and through our Montgomery GI Bill Parity legislation.”

Securing a New Operations Facility

Through his role on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Committee, Hoeven recently secured $17.5 million for the 119th Wing’s Consolidated Remote Piloted Aircraft Operations Facility as part of the FY2021 funding legislation passed in December. The updated facility is needed to support new advanced technology and equipment that is critical to the mission’s long-term success. This funding will help keep the project on schedule and prevent interruptions for the wing’s operations. The Air Guard anticipates breaking ground on the facility later this year, with a completion date of FY2023.

Supporting the MQ-9 Reaper Mission

As a member of the Defense Appropriations Committee, Hoeven included $108 million in FY2021 to purchase 16 new MQ-9 Block 5 aircraft. This funding will help prevent the premature shutdown of the production line and ensure adequate aircraft are available as the Block 1 variants are retired. The senator continues urging the Air Guard to maximize the value of the MQ-9, including making it available to perform additional missions by serving as communications relays and command and control assets.

Strengthening Education Benefits for the Air Guard

Hoeven has been working to provide tuition assistance for Air National Guard members that is in line with their Army National Guard counterparts. In 2019, Hoeven announced that North Dakota had been selected by the National Guard Bureau as one of 14 states participating in a pilot program to provide college tuition assistance to the state’s Air National Guard members. Hoeven worked with the Air Guard to establish this program and has secured a total of $14.8 million across FY2020 and FY2021 to support the effort.

At the same time, Hoeven is stressing to DoD leadership the need to enable members of the Guard and Reserve to concurrently use Federal Tuition Assistance and GI Bill benefits to fund their education, similar to active duty servicemembers. To this end, Hoeven recently led a bipartisan group of senators in urging Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to take the final steps in restoring this concurrent use, which will enable Guard and Reserve members to access the full benefits to which they are entitled.

This process was initiated in August, following Hoeven’s efforts with the Trump administration, and will achieve the goals of theMontgomery GI Bill Parity Act, bipartisan legislation that was recently reintroduced by Senators Hoeven and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).