Sullivan Amendments in Defense Bill Highlight Arctic Role in Pacific Rebalance

WASHINGTON, DC – Last week the Senate Armed Services Committee, with Senator Dan Sullivan’s (R-AK) support, passed out of committee legislation to authorize $612 billion in critical defense spending for the Fiscal Year 2016.                                                   

“I was pleased to support this bipartisan legislation that will provide our service members with the funding they need to continue keeping our country safe,” Senator Sullivan said. “Over the last five months, I have heard from numerous senior defense officials about the increasing global security challenges faced by the United States.  To counter new threats from ISIL, an aggressive Russia, and a nuclear-armed North Korea, this bill makes important modernization investments, cuts bureaucratic red tape at the Pentagon, and ensures our Armed Forces remain the most agile and lethal in the world.”   

In his first National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Sen. Sullivan successfully included seven amendments in the FY2016 bill.  Working with Senators on both sides of the aisle, Senator Sullivan advanced initiatives that will play an important role in continuing to highlight Alaska’s strategic position in the Pacific and the Arctic.

“In the Asia-Pacific region and the Arctic, world leaders are watching our actions – not just listening to our words,” said Senator Sullivan.  “My amendments help send a clear message from Congress, to both our allies and adversaries, that the Pacific and the Arctic are areas that will be a focus of U.S. military strategy.  A key aspect of preventing conflict is the ability to project a credible military power.  My amendments seek to make the case that Alaska – and the squadrons, Brigade Combat Teams, and service members that reside here – continues to be an essential part of our forward-deployed military strength in the Arctic, Asia-Pacific, and Europe.”

Sullivan Strategic Amendments:

Requiring an Arctic Strategy and Operation Plan: This amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to detail a military strategy in the Arctic region and importantly requires a description of an Operation Plan for protection of U.S. national security interests in the Arctic.  Additionally, this amendment requires the Department of Defense to identify and begin to mitigate capability, infrastructure and personnel gaps in the Arctic and asks for a plan to further enhance military-to-military cooperation with partner nations.  The bill also includes a provision to identify emerging Russian capabilities and strategies in the Arctic. 

Maintaining the Credibility of the Rebalance to the Pacific:  This amendment expresses the Sense of the Congress that, in order maintain a credible military strategy rebalance, the U.S. must continue to shift military forces to the Asia-Pacific region and should actually increase forces in the Pacific Theater, including Outside the Contiguous United States (OCONUS) operationally controlled by U.S. Pacific Command, which includes forces in Alaska.  With the emphasis the Administration has placed on the Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, it is important that Congress continues to show unwavering support on this critical shift to our allies in the region.  The amendment also expresses the Sense of the Congress that any decrease in military personnel, which would include forces in Alaska, would “seriously undermine the rebalance.” 

Supporting the Robust Use and Training of F-35As:  This amendment expresses the Sense of Congress that the Secretary of the Air Force should consider strategically significant criteria when basing forward deployed F-35As.  These criteria – found in abundance in Alaska – include access to sufficient range capabilities and space for training, the ability to robustly train with our international partners, the presence of existing facilities to support operations, limited encroachment, and the minimization of costs.

Other Alaska Related Amendments:

Reducing High Cost of Energy at Military Bases: This amendment requires a much-needed report on the Department of Defense’s efforts to reduce the cost of energy at the top 20 percent of installations, like those in Alaska.  This amendment also allows for the Department of Defense to work collaboratively with state and local authorities to find ways to bring down energy costs. This amendment should set the stage for the Department of Defense to bring its considerable resources to bear on the high cost of energy in places like Interior Alaska as the Department of Defense ramps up its military force structure in the region.

Requesting Ground-Based Interceptors System Upgrade Report: This amendment requires the Commander of the United States Northern Command to set forth the status of current and planned efforts to improve the homeland ballistic missile defense capability of the United States and the ground infrastructure at Fort Greely.  

Promoting the Use of FAA-Licensed Spaceports: This amendment highlights the unique importance of spaceports like the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska found on Kodiak Island to the national security space program.  The Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska has supported numerous launches for Air Force Space Command including various national security launches. 

Advocating for the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) Program: This amendment encourages the Department of Defense to continue to utilize the IRT program – which in recent years have been used in Alaska to fund Operation Arctic Care, runway improvements on Kodiak Island, and costal erosion mitigation in Newtok.

Provisions included in the 2016 NDAA of Alaskan benefit and interest:

“Importantly, by prioritizing funding for the modernization of critical initiatives like homeland defense and combat air power, the NDAA rightfully recognizes the importance of missile defense and the continued development and deployment of F-35s.  Along these lines, this bill funds $400 million above the Department of Defense’s $8.1 billion request for missile defense, a significant portion of which will be invested in Alaska,” said Senator Sullivan.

F-35:  Includes $5.3 billion to procure 44 F-35As and keep the program on track.  If Eielson Air Force Base is selected, the FY2017 Budget request will begin the process of funding some F-35As that will be deployed to Alaska.

Missile Defense:  Funds $400 million above the Department of Defense’s $8.1 billion budget request for missile defense programs.  This funding includes $1.28 billion for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System.  Much of the warfighting capabilities for GMD are located at Fort Greely, Alaska.

Missile Defense Sensors: Includes $233.6 million for Missile Defense Sensors and $137.6 million for the Long Range Discriminating Radar (LRDR) which will be located in one of two locations in Alaska, Clear or Sheyma.

Military Construction Funding for Three Interior Alaska Priorities:

  • $37 million for a F-35A Flight Simulator at Eielson Air Force Base.
  • $34 million for the repair and replacement of a boiler at Eielson Air Force Base’s central heat and power plant.
  • $7.8 million for a Physical Readiness Training Facility at Fort Greely.