President signs Upton bill enabling National Guard, Air Force remote flight programs to advance

President Barack Obama signed bipartisan legislation into law last week that U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) led to update and modernize leasing programs of the National Guard and Air Force Remote Pilot Aircraft (RPA).

The bill, which was introduced in the House by Upton and U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY), makes needed changes to leasing programs that enable the National Guard and RPA to continue operating remotely piloted aircraft at civilian airfields.

“W.K. Kellogg Airport here in Southwest Michigan has long enjoyed a close relationship with the Michigan National Guard, and our bipartisan legislation — now law — enables that productive partnership to continue,” Upton, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said. 

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced a Senate version of the bicameral, bipartisan bill.

“I again want to thank Sen. Peters for his efforts in getting this to the president’s desk and I know we both appreciate President Obama acting swiftly to sign it into law,” Upton said. “This is a big win for southwest Michigan as we keep an eye on the future for critical national defense undertakings.”

Missions of the 110th Attack Wing are reshaping America’s fighting forces for the future, Peters said, and they play a critical role in ensuring national security.

“I’m pleased the legislation Congressman Upton and I worked together to pass was quickly signed into law,” Peters said. “This new law will help the Battle Creek Air National Guard and W.K. Kellogg Airport continue to grow West Michigan’s role as a key location for cutting-edge national defense missions.”

Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, the president of the National Guard Association of the United States, said that the president’s signing of the bill into law enables National Guard units to continue flying remotely piloted aircraft at civilian airports without increases in lease payments.

“Under the new law, the Federal Aviation Administration now considers RPA missions to be aeronautical and units that fly them are immune from possible lease hikes,” Hargett said.

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