Hoeven Working to Advance Innovative Solutions to Address Pilot Shortage for National Guard, Air Force

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee this week, Senator John Hoeven urged military leaders, including Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, Chief of the Air Force Reserve, to advance innovative methods to help address the nation’s pilot shortage. 

Hoeven highlighted efforts like the Pathways Program at the University of North Dakota (UND), which Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses to train students as air interdiction agents, flying both manned and unmanned aircraft. The senator stressed that this could serve as a model for the Armed Forces, allowing them to rely on institutions like the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at UND, ensuring pilot training can be completed in a timely fashion while also helping to meet the demand for aircraft operators. In addition, Hoeven included $4 million in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 funding legislation for a program to train Air Force ROTC cadets at flight schools like UND.

“Our armed forces are facing a deficit of qualified pilots, whether it’s for manned aircraft, like helicopters and airplanes, or UAS,” Hoeven said. “We need to provide our military with the capacity and flexibility to address this shortage in creative new ways. That’s why we are building connections between UND and federal partners like CBP’s Pathways Program and the Air Force ROTC. It’s also why we want to enable the National Guard to use private UAS training academies, like those at Grand Sky Technology Park. These kinds of solutions can help support the readiness of our troops and strengthen our nation’s security.”

Today’s hearing aligns with an amendment Hoeven secured in the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that allows 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 Air National Guard has often seen delays in getting its pilots fully trained for the Predator and Reaper platforms, and the senator’s amendment ensures that pilots are able to train using facilities like those at Grand Sky. Hoeven played a key role in bringing Northrop Grumman and General Atomics to the business and aviation park, which is adjacent to the Grand Forks Air Force Base, to establish these training academies.