Hoeven Statement on Confirmation of Kirstjen Nielsen as DHS Secretary

Senator Secured Commitment from Nielsen to Visit ND, Advancing State’s UAS Expertise to Strengthen National Security

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today issued the following statement after the Senate confirmed Kirstjen Nielsen as the Secretary of Homeland Security. In a meeting with Nielsen and during her confirmation hearing, Hoeven highlighted the unique advantages of North Dakota’s unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry in developing solutions to improve the nation’s security, both at the borders and across the country. This includes assisting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in testing and evaluating technologies that can counter illegal use of unmanned aircraft, which might pose a threat to public safety or key infrastructure. Accordingly, the senator extended an invitation to Nielsen to visit North Dakota, which she accepted.

“UAS holds the promise of not only providing great commercial benefits, but also in helping to better secure our nation,” said Hoeven. “Secretary Nielsen and I have extensively discussed North Dakota’s leading role in developing and testing these UAS applications and how we can leverage this technology to strengthen DHS’ operations. I look forward to working with her to do just that.”  

Hoeven continues his efforts to ensure North Dakota leads in developing the future of the UAS industry. To this end, the senator is actively working to secure the state’s role in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) recently-launched drone integration pilot program. The state is well-positioned to lead in the pilot program, as well as in developing low altitude beyond-line-of-flight applications, UAS detection/counter-UAS technologies and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) unmanned traffic management (UTM) system, due to two components Hoeven helped secure in recent years:

  • Authorization for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to oversee UAS operations that go beyond the line of sight of the operator.
  • Upgrades for the DASR-11 digital radar systems at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and a similar system at Hector Field in Fargo. 

Further, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven secured $8 million in Fiscal Year 2017 funding to ensure that CBP’s UAS operations and training facility would remain in Grand Forks. The CBP leased recently-renovated space on the air base earlier this year.