Hoeven Outlines North Dakota Priorities with USAF Secretary, Chief of Staff

Senator Working to Update Nuclear Forces for Minot, Bring Secretary Wilson to Grand Forks, Advance Region’s UAS & Aerospace Expertise as a Solution to Pilot Shortage

WASHINGTON – At a recent hearing of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, Senator John Hoeven reviewed North Dakota’s priorities in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 U.S. Air Force (USAF) budget request with Heather Wilson and General David L. Goldfein, Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force, respectively. Hoeven outlined the need to maintain strong support for the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) missions in Grand Forks as well as for upgrading the B-52s, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and the air-launched cruise missiles for the Minot Air Force Base. Hoeven also highlighted reforms that Congress has passed to accelerate the Air Force acquisition process. Wilson confirmed that these policies will allow the Air Force to purchase a new engine for the B-52 more quickly while controlling costs.

In addition, the senator urged the officials to use the institutions in North Dakota, like the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at UND, to address the nation’s pilot shortage for both manned and unmanned aircraft, similar to Customs and Border Protection’s Pathways Program. Hoeven invited Secretary Wilson to visit the Grand Forks area to see firsthand the unique convergence of military, government and private UAS research, development, operations and training in the region. Hoeven hosted Gen. Goldfein for a similar visit in December.

“Our nation’s nuclear deterrent is more important than ever, and at the same time, demand for Global Hawk’s capabilities continues to increase,” said Hoeven. “That means North Dakota’s missions are playing an ever more important role in our country’s defense. I appreciate that the Air Force’s budget request continues to prioritize these missions, including upgrades for the B-52 engines and the nuclear forces in Minot as well as funding for our UAS operations. However, there are more ways that North Dakota can help resolve challenges our nation is facing. That’s why I have invited Secretary Wilson to Grand Forks, so she can learn how our dynamic and one-of-a-kind UAS industry can strengthen our use of this technology. This visit would also help us advance our region’s expertise as a solution to the shortage of pilots, both for UAS and manned aircraft.”

This hearing comes as part of Hoeven’s efforts to support North Dakota’s missions. To this end, the senator joined Task Force 21 at the Pentagon and met with Grand Forks Base Realignment Committee (BRIC) last week to help advance the priorities of the state’s Air Force bases. These efforts follow Hoeven’s work on the Appropriations Committee to secure important provisions for Air Force and Air National Guard operations across North Dakota in the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the FY18 funding legislation.

Hoeven’s work also helped result in the administration requesting a new $66 million helicopter complex for the Minot Air Force Base as part of its Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget proposal. The project will include a new aircraft maintenance building, aircraft shelter facilities, an alert hangar and a helicopter operations facility. The existing facility is configured only to support the UH-N1 helicopter, and the aging buildings are not adequate for the replacement helicopter fleet.