When David Goldfein spoke about Grand Forks Air Force Base last week, he added a bit of strength to what we consider an already strong argument that the base should be part of the nation’s future defense system.
Goldfein, the U.S. Air Force chief of staff, said GFAFB is “key strategic terrain.” It came during a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The conversation revolved around news that, due to budget restrictions, some aircraft in the U.S. Global Hawk fleet will be cut. Although those craft aren’t stationed at Grand Forks, they still fall under the supervisory umbrella of GFAFB.
Political and community officials are urging residents to not fret too much about the news, while still maintaining that it’s best to never take anything for granted. We said the same in an editorial last month.
But Goldfein’s latest comments are reassuring, furthering what many here already believe: That Grand Forks Air Force Base is a strategic outpost on the nation’s northern border, that future defense strategies will continue to evolve around Arctic missions, and that the community is working hard to show its connections and relationships with the base.
“What you’ll see in this budget is retirement of the older Global Hawks,” he said. “And with all of these, we want to make sure we work with the communities and with you, sir, and with all senators, to minimize impact on the base as we go forward because Grand Forks, like many other bases, is key strategic terrain. It is key to the Arctic strategy because of its location, and it also supports some of our ground-based intercept radar feeds that are so important to us.”
Goldfein ended with this: “We want to make sure we mitigate the impacts to Grand Forks.”
That the community and the base are intertwined is no secret.
The base is host to a public-private partnership for a burgeoning and nationally famous UAS facility. State-level politicians from Grand Forks responded when national military leaders stressed that communities need to be more responsive to quality-of-life issues, such as occupational license reciprocity for military spouses. Federal delegates are spreading the word and reaffirming the base-city connectivity.
The list goes on.
The point is that Grand Forks desperately wants the Air Force to be here, and efforts in recent years show it.
As we said last month, it’s no time to panic. We more firmly believe that after Goldfein’s comments, which are by no means official strategy but tend to show the Air Force’s thinking about the northern Red River Valley.
Cuts probably are coming as the Air Force realigns for the future. But because of so many city-base connections, because the region has shown a commitment to the base, because of the infrastructure already in place at GFAFB, and because of its location along the northern border, we believe GFAFB is in relatively good position to be in that future.
Perhaps it won’t be Global Hawks, but we’ve been through this before -- fighters to bombers to tankers, et al.
History shows Grand Forks is ready and enthusiastic for whatever the Air Force stations here in the future.