Hoeven Working to Secure Funding to Bring Satellite Operations to Grand Forks

In Defense Appropriations Committee Hearing, Under Secretary Confirms SDA Plan for Grand Forks Ops Center; SDA Director Tournear to Visit ND This Spring

WASHINGTON – During a hearing of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee this week, Senator John Hoeven advanced efforts with the Space Development Agency (SDA) to bring a new low-Earth orbit satellite mission to the Grand Forks Air Force Base. At the hearing, Hoeven confirmed with Barbara McQuiston, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, that SDA is working to stand up a satellite operations center in Grand Forks. As a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, Hoeven is working to secure funding to ensure the operations center can be operational by Fiscal Year 2024. Over time, such a mission could include not only operating SDA satellites but linking them with unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which would complement the base’s role in the Air Force’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.  

Senator Hoeven, along with Senator Kevin Cramer, has been working with SDA, including Director Derek Tournear, to identify funding priorities to help advance the new mission. The senators discussed a satellite operations center with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, Jr. during his visit to Grand Forks in February. Hoeven also has secured a commitment from Dr. Tournear to visit North Dakota again later this spring and discuss the process for standing up a satellite operations facility at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. 

“We’re working with SDA on the steps we need to take to make the Grand Forks Air Force Base one of the key links for the planned, new fleet of low earth orbit satellites. During our Defense Appropriations hearing this week, Under Secretary McQuiston confirmed that SDA believes that Grand Forks can host one of its planned new operations centers. As a member of the Defense Appropriations Committee, I’m working to secure the funding and resources to make that a reality. Our efforts with the SDA will help ensure a strong future for the Grand Forks Air Force Base, both by establishing a space mission and by improving its ability to support Air Force UAS and ISR operations,” said Hoeven. 

This week’s hearing builds on Hoeven’s efforts to strengthen the missions based in Grand Forks and position the base for future growth. This includes:

  • Maintaining Grand Forks Air Force Base as the lead for all U.S. Air Force Global Hawk operations.
  • Securing a commitment from the Air Force to keep Grand Forks and its 319th Reconnaissance Wing (RW) at the core of its ISR efforts.
    • The 319th RW will also be responsible for developing and training a new crew force and expanding operational employment tactics for future ISR systems.
  • Upgrading the Global Hawk to support the widest possible set of missions, including improving its ability to reroute around adverse weather.
    • The senator also worked to prevent the retirement of the RQ-4 Global Hawk in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Defense Appropriations legislation and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).