U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to prioritize the Global Hawk program in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal. Heitkamp has continually stressed the importance of the Global Hawk to Defense officials because she believes this platform, and the work done with it at Grand Forks Air Force Base, is vital to our national security.
"Because of the Global Hawk program and the work of our talented Grand Forks Air Force Base servicemembers, our warfighters are safer, and so is our nation," said Heitkamp. "At a time of tight budgets, I am calling on Secretary Hagel to make smart investments in worthy and efficient programs such as the Global Hawk."
Below is the full letter Senator Heitkamp sent to Secretary Hagel:
March 21, 2013
The Honorable Charles T. Hagel
Secretary of Defense
Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
Dear Secretary Hagel,
As you complete development of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget proposal for the Department of Defense, I urge continued investment in sufficient real-time Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability and, specifically, the Global Hawk platform to ensure our warfighters have the information they need to keep themselves, and our nation, safe from enemies and deter potential enemies from taking action.
As you know, in regions such as Afghanistan, Global Hawk platforms are providing information directly to our warfighters and giving them the ability to complete their critical missions. This tactical communications relay mission is only one example of how the Global Hawk benefits our military. Other Global Hawk platforms provide high-altitude reconnaissance carrying cameras, radars and other signal-intelligence gear with significant advantages over other platforms in loiter ability and range. Once the newest member of the Global Hawk family, the Block 40, achieves approval, the platform will be able to monitor everything of military value in a wide area, tracking the position and movement of thousands of targets at a much lower cost.
The Global Hawk is a unique platform in that its efforts support the entire national security network. This multi-service ability - from helping identify potential risks for Naval vessels transiting contested waters to providing reconnaissance of potential air or ground targets - is important to recognize. The Air Force manages the Global Hawk program, but the ISR from its sensors and cameras benefit soldiers, sailors and airmen and ensures they have the information to safely complete their missions.
Without sufficient ISR, as provided by Global Hawks, U-2, satellites, and other platforms, our nation will be less able to react to and deter actions by nations or organizations whose activities could make America less safe. I am concerned that future defense budgets may take a shortsighted view regarding ISR investments and eliminate programs with a long future of operability, such as the Global Hawk and its strong capabilities regarding range, loiter ability, mission capable rate and cost per operating hour. Such decisions could leave our nation unable to meet future needs and vulnerable to threats whose origins may not presently be clear.
In March 2012, the Air Force provided Congress information about the estimated costs for operations and procurement for the Global Hawk Block 30 and U-2 programs for FY13-17 as part of the Future Years Defense Program. That information demonstrated the Global Hawk would cost $1.291 billion less over that period to meet High-Altitude ISR requirements. Since then, the Global Hawk has continued to achieve operational successes. Additionally, the Global Hawk airframe has approximately 98 percent of its estimated fleet life, making it one of the newest aircraft in our nation's arsenal.
I appreciate your attention to this important issue and welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues further with you and the Administration. Thank you for your consideration of my request.
United States Senate