Alaska Delegation Commends U.S. Navy for New Arctic Strategy

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, and Congressman Don Young (all R-Alaska) commended the U.S. Navy for releasing “A Blue Arctic” last week, the service’s strategy document for the Arctic region. The Department of the Navy’s document builds upon the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Arctic strategy, released in June of 2019, and compliments the Air Force’s Arctic strategy, released in July of 2020.  

“We live in an era of renewed great power competition, when a growing number of countries are looking to command the Arctic’s strategic global position and vast natural resources,” said Senator Sullivan. “As an Arctic nation, the United States must urgently seek to better protect our people, our sovereignty and our homeland along this northern approach. The Department of the Navy, under the leadership of Secretary Braithwaite, clearly recognizes the critical importance of Alaska within this geo-strategic region, and I commend them for releasing this strategy today. Although I believe the department’s new blueprint lacks some of the urgency needed to drive the development of critical capabilities that are required to effectively compete with our rivals in the Arctic, it rightfully acknowledges the need to evolve our forces to more adeptly project and sustain naval power throughout the high latitudes. I look forward to working with current and future leaders of the U.S Navy to close the gaps, adjust our force posture, and modernize equipment to ensure that America’s Navy-Marine Corps team can—alongside our allies—secure our nation’s vital security interests in the Arctic.” 

“For years, I have been working to ensure that the Arctic region is a national priority,”said Senator Murkowski. “Last week, the Department of Navy released, 'A Blue Arctic,' its strategic blueprint for the region and in doing so builds upon a DOD-wide effort to prioritize the region. This announcement follows Arctic Strategy announcements from the Department of the Air Force in July 2020, the U.S. Coast Guard in 2019, and precedes the release of the Department of the Army's Arctic Strategy expected in early 2021. I am encouraged with the progress being made across the DOD to prioritize the Arctic and I commend the leaders of all the departments, including Secretary Braithwaite, for their contributions to this important effort. As sea ice continues to melt, the waters off of Alaska’s coast and throughout the Arctic are more and more accessible. While this allows for new economic opportunities and greater collaboration with our Arctic neighbors, it also brings the potential for malign activity. I’m encouraged that the blueprint prioritizes cooperation and synchronization to bolster our nation’s defense resources and capabilities in the High North. I appreciate that this Arctic strategy highlights the military service of many indigenous people to the nation, but I challenge the Navy to take that further; to not only acknowledge the history and existence of Native Alaskan Tribes, but to actively communicate and collaborate with them as stakeholders and mutual partners. My sincere thanks to all that contributed to developing this strategic blueprint – ‘A Blue Arctic.’ I look forward to continuing my work with the Navy and Marine Corps to ensure the many assets and investments needed in the Arctic are a priority going forward in to the 117th Congress.” 

“The United States is an Arctic nation because of Alaska, and I am very pleased that the Navy's newly released Arctic Blueprint recognizes the importance of our region to national security, foreign relations, and international commerce,” said Congressman Young. “The Arctic is changing. In the coming decades, we must ensure that its waters are navigable, and that our Armed Forces are equipped with the training and equipment necessary to keep the peace in a rapidly evolving climate. We must remember that the United States is not the only country working to pursue new opportunities in the Arctic -- our adversaries are as well. It is my great hope that this Arctic Blueprint will help us maintain our competitive edge with other nations operating in our region. I want to sincerely thank the U.S. Navy and everyone involved for diligently working on researching and assembling this vital document. As the only Member of Congress from inside the Arctic Circle, I will continue doing all that I can to keep Alaska front and center in America's Arctic strategy.”

The newly released strategy document acknowledges that U.S. interests are best served by “fostering a peaceful, prosperous, and rules-based order in the Arctic region.” In order to achieve this end, the strategy states that naval forces must expand their role in Alaska—and the greater Arctic region—through the pursuit of three main objectives: maintaining enhanced presence, strengthening cooperative relationships, and building a more capable Arctic naval force.

Within these objectives, the department outlines the need to continually assess its Arctic requirements to ensure it has the right mix of forces positioned to adequately confront the malign activities of Russia and China, and to secure America’s homeland. The document also calls for improvements and investments in infrastructure, communications, force modernization, and research. 

Importantly, the Navy strategy also stresses the need for close cooperation and partnership with Alaska Native communities. 

On December 3, 2020, Senator Sullivan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, hosted a hearing with Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael M. Gilday, and Commandant of the Marine Corps General David H. Berger to preview the new U.S. Navy strategy for the Arctic.  

Senator Sullivan has been pressing for years for the DOD and U.S. military services to develop strategies for the Arctic, like they have for other important global regions. The Department of the Army is expected to release its own Arctic strategy later this year.

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