Hoeven Statement on Vice President’s Visit to Grand Forks

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today issued the following statement to mark Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the Grand Forks Air Force Base. 

“We welcome Vice President Pence to Grand Forks and appreciate his attention to our dedicated service members stationed in the region,” Hoeven said. “Our local Air Force members provide a vital service to this nation, conducting reconnaissance and surveillance to provide solid intelligence for missions and protect us against threats around the globe. Their important work deserves to be recognized. Further, we hope this visit provided an opportunity for the Vice President to learn more about the exciting developments in UAS research, development, training and operations in the region. We are well-positioned to help lead the next big developments in this industry, which will bolster our national security efforts and lead to new applications and economic growth across a variety of sectors.”

Hoeven continues his efforts to reinforce North Dakota’s role as a leader in the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry and leverage this technology to improve national security. To this end, the senator is advocating for the administration to utilize Grand Forks’ UAS facilities and expertise to improve border security, develop counter-UAS technologies and address the pilot shortage, both for manned and unmanned aircraft.

Hoeven also joined Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao earlier this year to announce that North Dakota was selected as one of ten sites to participate in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) UAS integration pilot program. As part of this program, the North Dakota test site and the state’s UAS industry will be at the forefront of establishing the safe operation of unmanned aircraft in the national airspace (NAS), providing regulatory certainty for UAS operators and ensuring privacy concerns are addressed.

In addition, Hoeven is working as a member of the Senate Defense and Homeland Security Appropriations Committees to support the missions housed at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, including for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Accordingly, the senator has secured the following priorities in the Senate’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 funding legislation:

Defense Priorities

  • $386 million for the RQ-4 Global Hawk program which is based at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. This includes $100 million for the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) program, allowing for the procurement of an additional Global Hawk aircraft to carry the BACN payload.
  • $7.8 million for DoD’s unmanned aircraft research efforts, including $4 million above the administration’s request to support development of an unmanned traffic management system.
  • $4 million for a helicopter pilot training initiative, similar to the ROTC flight school funding that Hoeven secured in FY2018. The senator is advocating for the military to use flight schools like the University of North Dakota (UND) to address the pilot shortage.

Homeland Security Priorities

  • $13 million for counter-UAS technologies and instructs DHS to brief the Appropriations Committee on its funding needs in this area for the next five years.
  • $10 million for CBP to use contractors, like those at Grand Sky, to train UAS pilots to help address the pilot shortage and increase the use of its UAS fleet for border surveillance.
  • Requires CBP to report on whether using contractor-owned, contractor-operated aircraft could help further augment its border surveillance activities.
  • Includes language prioritizing security at the northern border and provides $6 million to test and evaluate methods for detecting low flying and slow aircraft that facilitate trafficking and smuggling.