Secretary of Defense Would Support Army’s Recommendation to Keep Troops in Alaska

WASHINGTON, DC – In the latest development regarding the U.S. Army’s decision to remove the 4-25 Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Alaska, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told Senator Dan Sullivan today in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that he would support a recommendation from the U.S. Army to retain the 4-25 IBCT (ABN) at JBER, the only Army airborne combat brigade in the Pacific and the Arctic, and the only one with extreme-cold weather and high-altitude training.

When pressed by Senator Sullivan at today’s hearing if he supported a forthcoming recommendation from General Mark Milley, the Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary Carter said, “With respect to the 4-25….. I’ve spoken to General Milley. If he makes that recommendation to me, I want you to know I’m going to approve that. I think that that is an important part of our force posture in the Pacific, and I appreciate your calling my attention to it.”  

This statement from Secretary Carter comes on the heels of General Milley’s Senate Appropriations Committee testimony last month, where he stated that in his best military opinion, “it would be contrary to strategic national security interests to go ahead and pull out the 4-25 at this time. So my thought is that we should extend them at least a year to see how the strategic situation develops and then move from there.” 

Since the Department of Defense (DOD) announced last summer that it would begin drawing down 2,600 soldiers from JBER, Senator Sullivan has repeatedly pressed top DOD and other officials to reconsider. He, as well as numerous colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee, have expressed alarm that such drastic cuts would threaten our national security. Russia’s aggressive behavior, China’s coercive island building, and North Korea’s recent destabilizing nuclear and missile tests make our force posture in the Arctic and the Pacific all the more important, Senator Sullivan has argued.

“Today, the most senior member of the Department of Defense, Secretary Ash Carter, publically confirmed that he would support the Army’s recommendation to keep the 4-25 in Alaska because he understands the importance of this strategic capability,” Senator Sullivan said after the hearing. “Over the past year, I have fought to keep the 4-25 because the Arctic, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific are becoming increasingly dangerous and unstable. It’s vitally important—both to the security of Alaska and to the rest of the country—that we have strategically positioned forces that can counter and deter global threats and provide our nation’s leaders with diverse capabilities, like Arctic training. I’m thankful that Secretary Carter, as well as other top officials, recognize the importance of the 4-25 to our national security.” 


Working with Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young, Senator Sullivan, as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has relentlessly championed the effort to fully retain the 4-25 IBCT (ABN) – a critically strategic national security asset for the United States – in Alaska.  

  • For the past fifteen months, Senator Sullivan has devoted hundreds of hours to making the case that keeping the 4-25 IBCT (ABN) at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) is in the national interest of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. as a whole.   
  • From countless hearings, meetings, and visits with senior Department of Defense leaders – including President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, Chief of Staff of the Army General Mark Milley, Acting-Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy, Nominee to be Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning – Senator Sullivan has engaged at the highest levels to fight to keep the U.S. Army’s only extreme-cold weather and mountain-trained airborne brigade in the Pacific and the Arctic.   
  • In addition, Senator Sullivan has helped inform his colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee of how important Alaska’s 4-25 IBCT (ABN) is to promoting U.S. interests in the Pacific and the Arctic and has raised the issue weekly in the committee. Recently, a bipartisan group of Senators on the committee publically shared concerns with senior Department of Defense officials.  
  • With their full bipartisan support, Senator Sullivan included an amendment in last year’s defense authorization to require the Department of Defense to produce a new Arctic Strategy and an Operation Plan (OPLAN) for the Arctic region.  
  • During Armed Services hearings, Senator Sullivan received commitments from senior DOD leadership to not remove soldiers from the 4-25 IBCT (ABN) until the Arctic OPLAN is completed. In public and private meetings, he pressed U.S. Army and DOD senior leaders to re-evaluate the earlier Army decision and in the process, the Army put a hold on the decision to remove troops from Alaska. 
  • In February 2016, General Milley fulfilled a promise he made to Senator Sullivan in his nomination hearing and accompanied Senator Sullivan to Alaska to assess the 4-25 IBCT (ABN) issue. 
  • Last month, Senator Sullivan watched soldiers from the 4-25 IBCT (ABN) execute a nighttime-training Joint Forcible Entry Operation into Fort Polk, Louisiana. In addition, Senator Sullivan also regularly meets with the leadership of Alaska Command and U.S. Army Alaska and the soldiers and airmen that serve underneath them.