Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Press Releases

Sep 13 2017

Heitkamp Welcomes Defense Secretary Mattis’ Commitment to Nuclear Triad During Visit to Minot

Senator Pushed Defense Department to Retain ICBMs as Part of Nuclear Deterrent

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today welcomed Defense Secretary James Mattis’ commitment to the nuclear triad during his visit to Minot Air Force Base. Secretary Mattis’ visit focused on Minot’s two critical legs of the nuclear triad: strategic B-52 bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Heitkamp has worked to bolster Minot’s nuclear missions, and as a member of the Senate ICBM Coalition she pushed the U.S. Defense Department to retain ICBMs as part of our nuclear deterrent strategy in a report she released last year.

“Minot’s nuclear capabilities are absolutely essential to America’s security, and Secretary Mattis’ visit and newly stated commitment to ICBMs and the nuclear triad is a welcome sign for the future of the base,” Heitkamp said. “We must continue to work hard to maintain and modernize North Dakota’s defense infrastructure – including our B-52s and ICBMs – and support our airmen and women at both of our bases, and it’s encouraging to have Secretary Mattis as a partner in the effort to keep our country strong and safe.” 

Heitkamp has consistently fought to support both of North Dakota’s Air Force bases, and is a cofounder of the Senate Defense Communities Caucus.

Earlier this month, Heitkamp welcomed Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to Minot Air Force Base. Secretary Wilson toured the base after Heitkamp secured a commitment from her to visit the state before her confirmation vote in May.

Last month, at Heitkamp’s request, General Lori J. Robinson, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), visited with leaders and airmen at Grand Forks Air Force Base to see the base’s potential for Arctic missions, work with the Global Hawk, and its innovation in remotely piloted aircraft operations and training up close.

Last September, Heitkamp helped host then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter at Minot Air Force Base and secured his continued support for nuclear modernization in Minot. Heitkamp has long pushed the Defense Department to commit to supporting the nuclear deterrent at Minot, and during his speech Carter reinforced the importance of the nuclear missions at the base and emphasized the $10 billion in investments nationally over the last two years to make improvements to those missions – including at Minot Air Force Base. Heitkamp will continue pushing this administration for needed upgrades.

Heitkamp’s work to boost North Dakota’s bases includes efforts to promote:

  • Minot’s nuclear missions: The defense authorization Congress passed in December 2016 included a provision Heitkamp pushed for to keep development of the next generation of long-range strike bombers—like those in Minot—on track. The previous defense bill included parts of Heitkamp’s bipartisan Long Range Bomber Sustainment Act to make sure long-range bomber aircraft such as Minot’s B-52 bombers stay in service as long as they are needed. Heitkamp has also led the push to invest in new engines for the B-52 bombers, as she laid out in an op-ed in March.
  • Grand Forks’ Global Hawk mission: In February 2016, Heitkamp spoke with General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, who oversaw the remotely-piloted Global Hawk missions, before he visited the base to stress that Grand Forks is ideal for Global Hawk and other missions. The 69th Reconnaissance Group at Grand Forks Air Force Base flies combat support missions as well as training and sensor operating missions.
  • Grand Sky business and aviation park: Heitkamp has long advocated public-private partnerships like the Enhanced Use Lease that paved the way for Grand Sky opening as the first UAS business park of its kind in the nation. In December 2015, Heitkamp met with then-Air Force Assistant Secretary Miranda Ballentine about the importance of Grand Sky for both the Air Force and North Dakota.
  • Arctic missions: Heitkamp successfully amended the defense authorization bill Congress passed in 2015 to improve the military’s Arctic strategy and make Grand Forks attractive for future Arctic missions. The bill required DOD to submit a report on protecting national security in the Arctic region. Heitkamp’s amendment strengthened the report, which was released recently, and positions North Dakota to play a significant role in Arctic missions.


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