Hoeven, Heitkamp, Cramer Work to Enhance Future of GFAFB

Delegation Meets with GF BRIC, Presses Air Force Officials about GFAFB Strengths, Cost-Effectiveness amid Budget Constraints

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Congressman Kevin Cramer Tuesday joined representatives from the Grand Forks Base Realignment Impact Committee (BRIC) in meetings at the Pentagon, pressing Air Force officials to support current and future operations at Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB).

“We are incredibly proud of our servicemen and women at Grand Forks and the wonderful community that supports them,” the delegation said. “Because of their diligence and hard work, GFAFB continues to deliver missions critical to national security and is positioned to play an even bigger role in the future. By making full use of the advantages GFAFB offers, we can provide for a better national defense, accelerate the integration of unmanned aircraft in the national airspace and stimulate research and development of critical new aviation technologies.”

The delegation joined Grand Forks BRIC leaders in a meeting with Kathleen I. Ferguson, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics, to advance Grand Sky, a state-of-the-art aviation business and technology park on the base focused on providing cutting-edge facilities for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) development. Specifically, they urged her to work with the community to complete the environmental review process and approve the new contractor, FDSL, LLC, so that preparation of the site can get underway.

Following the meeting with the delegation and Grand Forks leaders, the Air Force notified the delegation this afternoon that they have approved FDSL, LLC, a joint venture between FD Stonewater and Lynxs, as the contractor for Grand Sky. The Air Force’s approval enables FDSL, LLC to begin working to fill the 1.2 million square feet at Grand Sky. 

The Air Force last month agreed to sign an Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) with Grand Forks County and its partners, BRIC and the Center for Innovation Foundation, for the 217-acres complex at GFAFB. Last year Hoeven worked to secure Northrop Grumman as an anchor tenant for Grand Sky. The EUL will allow the prestigious aviation company, along with the University of North Dakota, Northland Community and Technical College and other companies, to grow the UAS industry in North Dakota.

The delegation and BRIC leaders also pressed for the the return of a refueling tanker mission and continued development of unmanned aircraft missions at the base, including the Predator and Global Hawk platforms. They also worked to build support for the Federal Aviation Administration naming GFAFB one of six national test sites to facilitate the integration of manned and unmanned aircraft into the national airspace. They told Ferguson and other high-ranking Air Force officials that if selected, the base could provide the Air Force with a broad range of high-tech resources for UAS development and training. The FAA expects to make its test site selections soon.

Last week, Hoeven pressed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning to act on both a department-wide and Air Force specific level to fund the Global Hawk in Fiscal Year 2015 and beyond. Hoeven emphasized the importance of maintaining the nation’s preeminence in UAS and the affordable nature of UAS technology.

On October 22, Heitkamp sent a letter to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Michael Huerta reinforcing why Grand Forks would be an ideal UAS test site and pointing out how the Enhanced Use Lease agreement shows North Dakota’s continued commitment to UAS development and integration. Additionally, to help support service members in North Dakota and around the country, Heitkamp launched the bipartisan Defense Communities Caucus. The coalition works to put in place policies to provide crucial support and stability to members of the military, their families, and their community.

In June and July of this year Congressman Cramer worked in the House to pass key defense authorization and appropriation bills containing provisions important to North Dakota. At the Pentagon, Cramer emphasized the need to greater utilize the National Guard in our fiscally constrained environment and the ability they can play in strengthening current and future missions at GFAFB.