Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, outlined to General Mark D. Kelly, the new Commander of Air Combat Command (ACC), his work to grow the missions at the Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB) and enhance the base’s ability to support the Air Force’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) efforts. Hoeven also invited General Kelly to visit Grand Forks and learn about the base’s missions firsthand, which the general agreed to do.
Specifically, the senator highlighted:
- His work with Kelly’s predecessor to convert Grand Forks to an ISR wing and re-designate the base as the lead for all U.S. Air Force Global Hawk operations.
- His ongoing efforts to upgrade the Global Hawk to support the widest possible set of missions.
- The Senate’s recently-released Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 funding legislation includes $29 million that Hoeven secured for upgrades to allow the aircraft to reroute around adverse weather conditions.
- Hoeven also worked to ensure the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would restrict the retirement of the Global Hawk.
- The base’s unique relationship with the Grand Sky Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Research and Development Park, which offers an opportunity to better leverage this technology in securing the nation.
“We’ve worked hard to make the Global Hawk our nation’s premiere ISR aircraft, having advanced a full sensor array for the aircraft and upgrades that allow it to fly in a variety of conditions,” said Hoeven. “The conversation with General Kelly was an opportunity to highlight Grand Forks’ tremendous contributions to our nation’s defense and outline how we can best utilize this base to support future Air Force ISR priorities. That includes not only further developing the Global Hawk platform, but also protecting our nation’s interests in the Arctic, standing up the Space Force and housing potential new UAS missions. I look forward to his visit to Grand Forks and our continued work together in advancing these priorities.”
Today’s conversation with General Kelly builds on Hoeven’s previous efforts to advance new opportunities for GFAFB, including:
Securing the Arctic Mission
Hoeven included an additional provision in the Senate’s NDAA requiring Air Force to report on infrastructure requirements for the Arctic mission, which will help build the case for Grand Forks’ role in the mission. Further, the senator has repeatedly stressed to Air Force leadership that GFAFB is well-positioned to fulfill critical roles within the Arctic mission. The senator has highlighted the base’s significant ISR capabilities, as well as its ability to house future Air Force assets as they transit to and from the Arctic.
In 2014, Hoeven led a delegation to NORTHCOM headquarters and hosted the former NORTHCOM Commander in North Dakota in 2017. Hoeven also advanced provisions in the FY2020 NDAA requiring a report on China and Russia’s activities in the Arctic, as well as a report to outline how Northern Tier bases, like Minot and Grand Forks, can be utilized to advance U.S. interests in the region.
Standing up the Space Force
Earlier this year, Hoeven met with Gen. John Raymond, chief of staff for the U.S. Space Force, to outline opportunities for the GFAFB and Cavalier Air Force Station to assist in standing up the new branch of the armed forces. Additionally, he stressed the University of North Dakota’s partnerships with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Defense, which could be leveraged to help meet the technology and workforce development needs of the Space Force.