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Cramer tours Grand Forks and other ND military bases after joining Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., was in Grand Forks on Thursday to visit Grand Sky, a technical aviation park by Grand Forks Air Force Base for unmanned aerial systems.

U.S. Sen Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., is spending his week away from Capitol Hill touring military bases across North Dakota, as a new member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Cramer, who went from serving on only one committee in the U.S. House of Representatives to sitting on five committees in the Senate, said he was traveling to raise awareness and support for the Armed Services Committee's National Defense Authorization Act, which gives the Defense Appropriations subcommittee the ability to appropriate funding for military operations.

"It's expensive to deter countries who have a lot of resources and a lot of desire to dominate the globe," Cramer said. "So defense authorization is the hot topic of the day. I want to bring a North Dakota perspective to that, but I also want to bring a national perspective to North Dakota."

Before he was at Grand Sky technical aviation park for unmanned aircrafts on Thursday, Cramer had also made stops at Minot Air Force Base, the North Dakota Army Aviation Battalion in Bismarck and Cavalier Air Force Station.

Cramer will tour Grand Forks Air Force Base on Friday.

Using defense dollars on a border wall

The Trump administration has announced it might have to tap Defense Department funds to build a border wall.

That would entail taking $2.5 billion from counter-drug efforts and $3.6 billion from military reconstruction, according to previous statements from the Trump officials. The administration also said the president might tap $601 million from the federal Treasury Forfeiture fund.

Cramer said he supports the president's efforts to build a wall and he has previously released statements in favor of the president declaring a national emergency to obtain additional funding.

Regarding the chance Trump might tap defense dollars, Cramer said nothing's set in stone yet.

"I just think that those dollars, they're going to be the last (spent) anyways," he said of defense budgets. "We're going to have another entire budget cycle before those dollars even get tapped, in my view. ... I haven't talked to the president personally about this—I've talked to him about the declaration in general, probably three weeks ago—but I've never talked to him about since he made the decision, since he signed the declaration."

Cramer said he couldn't imagine which defense projects might be cut for a border wall. The Trump administration has yet to share any information on that either.

Space Force

Cramer said North Dakota could have a special role in the president's Space Force initiative.

"I just think the Cavalier Air Force station is one of the coolest I've been to," Cramer said.

"It's one of only a couple in the country that do space radar. Of course it was developed in 1970, built in 1970, as a response to potential for incoming missiles."

Cramer referred to outer space as the "new frontier for warfighting."

"We've all heard about it in these last couple months," Cramer said. "China and Russia's successful testing of a hypersonic missile, landing on the dark side of the moon, and, of course, the president announcing early in his presidency the creation of a Space Force."

Cramer said North Dakota could contribute in more ways than just offering the Cavalier station, additionally referring to its "academic assets" like the UND School of Aerospace and partnerships with UAS groups like Northrop Grumman and General Atomics, two defense contractors leasing space at Grand Sky.

"I think the president got it exactly right to create Space Force not as a separate military mission or branch, but rather as a vision within the airforce," Cramer said.

Emily Allen

Allen joined the Grand Forks Herald to cover local government and politics May 2018. Call her at 701-780-1102, email her at eallen@gfherald.com or follow her on Twitter, @Emily_theHerald.

(701) 780-1102
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