Hoeven Meets with Defense Secretary Nominee to Secure Support for North Dakota Nuclear & UAS Missions

Senator Outlines for Mark Esper Importance of Nuclear Modernization & Expanded UAS Operations, Need to Strengthen National Guard Education Benefits

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, today met with Mark Esper, the nominee to serve as the Secretary of Defense, where he outlined the importance of North Dakota’s nuclear and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) missions to the nation’s defense as well as the need to strengthen servicemembers’ benefits. Hoeven invited Esper to visit the state once he is confirmed to see firsthand the importance of its military missions. 

Hoeven is working to ensure the nominee’s support for:

  • Advancing the modernization of the country’s nuclear forces in order to maintain a credible deterrent.
  • Utilizing the state’s expertise in unmanned aviation to bolster a variety of missions, including in the Arctic.
  • Allowing National Guard and Reserve members to concurrently use Federal Tuition Assistance and GI Bill benefits.

“North Dakota’s military members are an essential part of our nation’s defense, and I appreciate Mark Esper for taking the time to learn more about our state’s nuclear and UAS missions and to discuss our bills to improve Guard and Reserve education and health benefits,” Hoeven said. “I look forward to supporting his nomination and working with him to ensure we keep our nuclear modernization efforts on track and continue expanding our unmanned capabilities.”

Hoeven’s meeting with Esper aligns with his recent efforts to support North Dakota’s missions through the Senate’s passage of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes the following priorities:

Nuclear Modernization

  • Two pieces of legislation sponsored by Hoeven to support the modernization of the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fleet and help ensure the replacement for the Minuteman III remains on schedule.
  • A Hoeven-cosponsored measure to ensure enough warheads are produced for the new ICBMs.
  • Authorized funding for:
    • Upgrades to the B-52, including the procurement of new engines.
    • Replacing the UH-1N Huey helicopters that provide security for the ICBM silos.
    • The new helicopter facility at the Minot Air Force Base.
    • The Long Range Stand Off (LRSO) missile to replace the aging Air Launched Cruise Missile carried on the B-52.
    • The new cruise missile nuclear warhead.
    • Sustaining the existing fleet of ICBMs.
    • The Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) to replace the Minuteman III.

UAS Operations

  • Authorized funding for:
    • The RQ-4 Global Hawk and its Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payload flown out of Grand Forks.
    • The MQ-9 Reapers, which are flown by the 119th Wing in Fargo and at Grand Sky UAS Research and Development Park in Grand Forks.
  • Hoeven-cosponsored legislation requiring a report on China and Russia’s activities in the Arctic, helping build the case for more attention and investment by the U.S. in the Arctic region.
  • A measure requiring a report on how “Northern Tier” bases, including Minot and Grand Forks, can be utilized to advance U.S. interests in the Arctic region.

National Guard and Reserve Benefits

In addition, Hoeven is advancing two pieces of legislation to strengthen benefits for the National Guard and Reserve forces. This includes the Montgomery GI Bill Parity Act, bipartisan legislation Hoeven introduced with Senators John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would enable members of the Guard and Reserve to concurrently use Federal Tuition Assistance programs and GI Bill benefits to fund their education, similar to active duty servicemembers.

Hoeven also helped introduced the TRICARE Reserve Improvement Act with Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). The bipartisan legislation would extend TRICARE Reserve Select eligibility to all Guardsmen and Reservists, including those who are currently ineligible because they are also federal employees who can enroll in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan (FEHB) Program.