Heitkamp Statement on Senate Passage of Defense Authorization Bill

Press Release

Date: June 18, 2015
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Defense

U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Defense Communities Caucus, today issued the following statement after she voted for and the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy and authorizes funding levels for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD):

"In Congress, one of our most important roles is to make sure we're protecting our national security and providing the resources our servicemembers here at home and around the world need to keep our country safe," said Heitkamp. "This defense authorization bill is certainly not perfect, but I voted for it because the legislation supports North Dakota's military interests -- particularly missions performed at Minot and Grand Forks Air Force Bases, as well as those performed by the North Dakota National Guard which I advocated for. Unfortunately, this bill increases the defense budget through gimmicks without addressing education, health care, or transportation spending needs that continue to get slashed. Going forward, I hope we can find the right balance to support our servicemembers while also giving our kids the education they deserve, improving medical research, and supporting Native families."

Specifically, the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the Senate by a vote of 71-25, includes several provisions that would benefit North Dakota, including:

A Heitkamp amendment to improve the military's Arctic strategy. The bill requires DOD to submit a report on the strategy to protect national security interests in the Arctic region. Heitkamp's amendment, which was included in the final bill, would strengthen this report and better enable Grand Forks Air Force Base to play a significant role in future Arctic missions.

Language Heitkamp introduced to support the B-52 mission at Minot Air Force Base. The bill includes a bipartisan provision Heitkamp pushed to make sure the U.S. military doesn't prematurely retire B-1, B-2, or B-52 bomber aircraft, including those at Minot Air Force Base. Heitkamp introduced similar legislation last month in the Long Range Bomber Sustainment Act with Republican Senator Mike Rounds from South Dakota to help support our nation's nuclear deterrence posture.

A provision to improve support for the North Dakota Air National Guard's mission. The bill authorizes $7.3 million in funding -- which Heitkamp specifically pressed to include -- for the North Dakota Air National Guard to build a new facility in Fargo for its intelligence targeting mission. The current facility is outdated and ill-suited to handle the extensive volume of classified information required by the mission.

Provisions to bolster support for unmanned aircraft mission. The bill strongly supports intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) conducted by the military by authorizing funding for unmanned aircraft missions, including those performed at Grand Forks Air Force Base and those performed by the North Dakota Air National Guard. The bill also authorizes nearly doubling the procurement of MQ-9 Reaper aircraft, which will help improve operational capability.