Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, this week spoke with the director of the Air National Guard, Lieutenant General Michael Loh, on the importance of North Dakota Air Guard Missions. Hoeven invited Lieutenant General Loh to visit North Dakota and see firsthand the work of the North Dakota Air National Guard as well as the unmanned aircraft operations and research conducted at Grand Sky Technology Park at Grand Forks Air Force Base.
Specifically, Hoeven outlined the importance of:
- Building a new MQ-9 operations center in Fargo. Hoeven supported authorization of the center in the Senate-passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and is working to provide funding for the project in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 as a member of the Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Committee.
- Supporting the MQ-9 Reaper for current and future Air Force operations. Hoeven encouraged the Air Guard to continue to look for ways to maximize the value of the MQ-9 and make it available to perform additional missions by serving as communications relays and command and control assets.
- Continuing to stand up its program to provide educational assistance for Air National Guardsmen. Hoeven worked to include North Dakota as part of the Air National Guard’s pilot program for tuition assistance.
- Allowing Guard members and Reservists to concurrently use Department of Defense Federal Tuition Assistance and Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve education benefits.
“Lieutenant General Loh and I had a good conversation about the importance of the North Dakota Air National Guard and the role of the Reaper in supporting missions around the globe. We’ve secured authorization for a new MQ-9 Operations Center and now we’re working to provide the funding to advance this important project to ensure that our Air Guard has the technology and equipment it needs,” said Hoeven. “Additionally, we discussed the importance of providing our Air Guard members with the education benefits they have earned. We provided funding for the Air Guard to set up a tuition assistance program that is in line with the program offered by the Army National Guard, and we’re pleased that this pilot program is advancing.”
The Senate-passed NDAA authorizes $17.5 million for the 119th Wing’s Consolidated Remote Piloted Aircraft Operations Facility. Now, Hoeven is working to secure funding in the FY2021 Military Construction appropriations bill to advance construction of the operations center in Fargo which will support new advanced technology and equipment.
Additionally, the Senate’s NDAA authorizes $170 million in purchases of new MQ-9 aircraft and prevents the premature shutdown of the production line. The Senator urged the Air Guard to maximize the value of the MQ-9 and highlighted the important role the Reaper plays in supporting military operations around the globe.
Education Benefits for the Air Guard
Hoeven urged Loh to continue advancing the pilot program to provide tuition assistance for Air National Guard members that is in line with their Army National Guard counterparts. Last October, Hoeven announced that North Dakota had been selected by the National Guard Bureau as one of 14 states participating in a pilot program to provide college tuition assistance to the state’s Air National Guard members. As a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, Hoeven secured $10.8 million in the FY 2020 funding legislation to support the effort and pressed the Air National Guard to set up a tuition assistance program to match the program already in place for the Army National Guard.
Additionally, in August, Hoeven announced that the Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) is working with the VA to enable members of the Guard and Reserve to concurrently use Federal Tuition Assistance and GI Bill benefits to fund their education, similar to active duty servicemembers. This achieves the goals of the Montgomery GI Bill Parity Act, legislation introduced by Hoeven and Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.), which Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) joined as original cosponsors.