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Opening of US Customs and Border Protection facility celebrated at Grand Forks Air Force Base

GRAND FORKS — Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., gave remarks on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at the grand opening ceremony of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s newly renovated unmanned aerial system training center at Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Hoeven said he worked to keep the CBP program in the region and identified a suitable location, ultimately at Grand Forks Air Force Base. The facility underwent extensive renovation and relocation on the base to the tune of $8 million.

“It ended up being a good news/good news story,” Hoeven said. “Originally, Air Force had come in and said ... we need the space to expand the Global Hawk mission here at Grand Forks Air Force Base. I said great, but then the facility that they offered CBP didn’t work. CBP didn’t have money in the budget to renovate it, so they were looking to go somewhere else, to another facility.”

With Kevin McAleenan, now Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Hoeven explored North Dakota options for the CBP move.

“At that time, he was he was acting director of CBP,” said Hoeven, a member of Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Committee.. “So he came up and we looked at various facilities; ended up with the facilities that you’ll see today, but they didn’t look like this, so I had to get the money.”

With the funding secured, the facility, called the National Air Security Operations Center in Grand Forks, was able to relocate on the Base and allow the U.S. Air Force to expand its Global Hawk intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission, completing the “good news/good news” story Hoeven mentioned.

The NASOC-GF mission is responsible for securing an 850-mile-long stretch of border with Canada, extending from the Great Lakes region and into Montana. In addition, the facility provides initial and recurrent training for UAS pilots for CBP.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Hoeven was on hand to promote CBP’s Pathways Program. The program is in conjunction with University of North Dakota and offers internships to people seeking to work with CBP to become pilots for manned and unmanned aircraft, to address a pilot shortage.

“How cool is that,” said Hoeven. “So the (Pathways) Program, CBP can hire young people to work as CBP agents, and they can go to school at UND.”

Hoeven used this chance to talk about how the Pathways Program helps make education more affordable for the young people involved.

“So there you go,” said Hoeven. “You have a job that helps you pay for that education, gainful employment, great experience, serve their country while getting money to go to school.”

The event was attended by Hoeven, several officials and officers of CBP, as well as Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown, who also offered remarks to the crowd expressing gratitude and welcome to members of the Air Force Base.

“A lot of great progress has been made, and we’re keeping our eyes forward in efforts to improve the Grand Forks experience for the base members,” Brown said. “There are people at the base who provide the greatest impact to our region, they invest in our community, they volunteer, they stand with us in times of need. As John Marshall says: ‘Our national security friends at the base are not friends and neighbors, they’re our family’ so I want to thank you for all you do.”