Sullivan Commends Air Force on “Most Robust” Arctic Strategy to Date
USAF releases first service-specific strategy for the Arctic
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, today commended the U.S. Air Force for releasing the first service-specific strategy for the Arctic. The Air Force’s Arctic Strategy document, which builds on the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Arctic Strategy, released in June 2019, and the National Defense Strategy (NDS), released in 2018, lays out an expansion of the competitive space in the Arctic under four lines of effort: vigilance in all domains, projecting power through a combat-credible force, cooperation with allies & partners, and preparation for Arctic operations. Importantly, this strategy also emphasizes continued work and collaboration with Alaska Native communities.
“I applaud and commend the Air Force and Secretary Barbara Barrett for their leadership in developing the most robust Arctic strategy yet. This strategy is a testament to the Air Force’s enduring commitment to Alaska, which dates back more than 100 years when the father of the Air Force, Billy Mitchell, called Alaska the most strategic place in the world,” said Senator Sullivan. “Today the Arctic is a region of great power competition, and this new strategy focuses on making tangible investments in real capabilities – communications, cold-weather materials and radar technology, and refueling capacity – to help the U.S. respond to this competition. Additionally, I am hopeful that this document will help lay the foundation for the use of Alaska as a vital power-projection platform to both Europe and the Indo-Pacific and solidify the Arctic’s central place – geographically and metaphorically – in the future of continued great power competition.
“For the last five years, Congress – not the Department of Defense – has been leading on the issue of Arctic advocacy. Of late, however, with President Trump’s new Memorandum on Safeguarding U.S. National Interests in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions, the appointment and confirmation of former ambassadors to Arctic nations – Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite, and USNORTHCOM Commander General Terrance O’Shaughnessy’s continued robust advocacy, the executive branch seems to be getting the message about the Arctic’s importance. I believe this moment may be the inflection point for U.S. interests in the region and I am hopeful the Air Force and the rest of the Department of Defense will invest robustly in this geo-strategically-important region.”
In the release of the Air Force’s new Arctic strategy, Secretary Barrett said, “The Arctic is among the world’s most strategically significant regions – the keystone from which the U.S. Air and Space Forces exercise vigilance.”
The U.S. Air Force’s Arctic Strategy release comes on the heels of Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett’s second visit to Alaska this year. Earlier this month, Senator Sullivan hosted Secretary Barrett in Alaska, where they toured the 354th Fighter Wing, including the 18th Aggressor Squadron and the newly-formed 356th Fighter Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), and the 213th Space Warning Squadron at Clear Air Force Station (AFS). Senator Sullivan then joined Secretary Barrett above the Arctic Circle, with visits to Utqiagvik and Kotzebue where they had meetings with numerous Alaska Native leaders.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services, Senator Sullivan has consistently highlighted the United States’ unique role as an Arctic nation because of the state of Alaska. The Senate version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes a number of Arctic-related provisions critical to Alaska, including the DOD Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies, increased Arctic communications capabilities, assignment of Arctic responsibilities within the DOD, plans to modernize the North Warning System, and further DOD research in the Arctic.
In February, Senator Sullivan received strong support for Arctic and Alaska-specific defense priorities from General Terrance O’Shaughnessy, the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) commander, at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. When asked by Senator Sullivan if Alaska remains a sanctuary from which the U.S. can safely project power, O’Shaughnessy replied, “[The Arctic] is clearly an avenue of approach to our great nation. It impacts the whole nation, absolutely.” He later expanded, saying, “It is now battle space."
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