Hoeven Meets With Grand Forks BRIC & USAF Secretary Wilson To Support Expanded GFAFB Operations, Address Pilot Shortage

Senator Will Review Air Force Budget with Wilson at Defense Appropriations Hearing Tomorrow

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today reviewed priorities for the Grand Forks Air Force Base with members of the Grand Forks Base Realignment Impact Committee (BRIC). Grand Forks BRIC is meeting with the senator after the committee’s visit to the Pentagon on Tuesday, where they worked to advance the base’s missions. As a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, Hoeven is working to both expand the base’s operations and encourage the Air Force to make use of assets in the region, like the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at UND, to address the nation’s pilot shortage, similar to Customs and Border Protection’s Pathways Program

To this end, Hoeven also met with U.S. Air Force (USAF) Secretary Heather Wilson today to review the Air Force’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget request. The senator invited Wilson to visit the state to see firsthand the state’s extensive unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operations in Grand Forks, as well as the dual-nuclear missions in Minot. This meeting comes as part of the Hoeven’s work on the Defense Appropriations Committee.

“The UAS and aerospace expertise in Grand Forks is second-to-none,” said Hoeven. “We appreciate Grand Forks BRIC for continuing to make this case to our military leaders. Their visit to the Pentagon bolsters our continued efforts in the Appropriations Committee to better leverage our assets in Grand Forks to strengthen a wide variety of Air Force and federal government operations, including reconnaissance and research in the Arctic and addressing the nation’s pilot shortage.”

Today’s efforts follow Hoeven’s successful work to secure important provisions for Air Force and Air National Guard operations in the Red River Valley as part of the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the FY18 funding legislation. This includes:

  • More than $300 million for the Global Hawk, including the RQ-4 Global Hawk program at Grand Forks Air Force Base.
  • $8 million to support the installation of a universal payload adapter for the Global Hawk Block 40.
  • $4 million for a program to train Air Force ROTC cadets at flight schools like UND.
  • A Hoeven amendment allowing the National Guard to send unmanned aircraft pilots to a civilian contractor for training if the Air Force lacks the capacity to train pilots in a timely fashion. The amendment ensures that pilots are able to train using UAS training academies, like those at Grand Sky Technology Park.

In addition, Hoeven continues working to secure an Arctic mission for Grand Forks. Last August, the senator 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, where he made the case for using the region’s UAS assets to conduct reconnaissance in the Arctic. Hoeven also led a delegation to NORTHCOM headquarters in 2014 toward this same goal.