Sullivan Leads Charge on Icebreakers, Missile Defense, and the Indo-Pacific in NDAA

WASHINGTON, DC – This week, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, voted in favor of the committee’s markup of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. On a vote of 25-2, the committee voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill, which supports $716 billion in defense funding for fiscal year 2019, which includes a 2.6% pay increase for our service members. The legislation includes 28 provisions secured by Senator Sullivan important to Alaska and the national security of our nation.

Icebreakers and Arctic Policy:

Senator Sullivan included a number of provisions in the FY2019 NDAA to advance U.S. interests in the Arctic region, including the authorization of 6 Heavy Polar-class Icebreakers for the Coast Guard and a requirement that each military service – the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps – produce their own strategy for the Artic region.  The NDAA also includes language to urge the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State to examine the implications of Russian military activity in the Arctic as it related to U.S. military force posture in the region.

“Two authoritarian states with very concerning track records have pushed all-in on the Arctic,” said Senator Sullivan. “While China and Russia seem to recognize the Arctic’s economic, resource, and strategic importance, unfortunately, the U.S. has been late to see it. Thankfully, that does not include my colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee and, during the markup, we voted to authorize six U.S. Coast Guard Icebreakers and require each U.S. military service to complete their own individual Arctic Strategy. Slowly but surely, we’re finally beginning to wake up to the Arctic’s growing geopolitical significance.”

Integrating our Missile Defense:

Continuing to lead the effort to grow out nation’s missile defense, Senator Sullivan successfully included eight missile defense provisions in this year’s defense bill, including the first-time requirement to both develop and deploy a layer of space-based sensors.  In addition, Senator Sullivan included important provisions to promote a more integrated missile defense system, to accelerate our defenses against hypersonic weapons, to encourage new strategic opportunities, to work with our allies on missile defense, and to look at additional options to better defend Guam.  Furthermore, the NDAA included a $73 million Missile Defense Agency Unfunded requirement to initiate a missile defense tracking system.

“Last year, my Senate colleagues and I – working with the Administration – led the effort to dramatically bolster and advance our country’s missile defense,” said Senator Sullivan. “This year, we continue this effort by authorizing the full development and deployment of a space-based sensor layer and continuing the process of readying our defenses – and those of our allies – against an ever-evolving missile threat. Given the threats, we need a better missile defense to protect Americans, our deployed forces, and our allies. And once again the Senate Armed Services Committee – working in bipartisan fashion – is stepping up to lead this critical missile defense effort.”

Indo-Pacific Leadership:

As a recognized leader on Indo-Pacific issues, Senator Sullivan, using his position on the Senate Armed Services Committee, continued to work to shape our country’s focus in the Indo-Pacific. Among the six provisions the Senator was able to secure was a reaffirmation of the importance of U.S. forces on the Korea Peninsula, a Statement of Policy of Freedom of Navigation, and language reinforcing the 2017 National Security Strategy and 2018 National Defense Strategy’s focus on allies and partnerships.

“As I’ve long been saying, the Indo-Pacific is critically important to our national security and to security across the globe. From the rise of China, to instability from North Korea, to the emergence of India, this year’s defense authorization continues to focus our nation’s attention on this critical region,” said Senator Sullivan. “In this bill, I worked to include language to double-down on our strategic alliances and partnerships with nations like Japan, to reaffirm our enduring commitment to U.S. presence in South Korea, and to expand our rapidly growing relationship with India. These provisions aim to show all of our allies and partners that the U.S. has been, is now, and will long continue to be an Indo-Pacific power for decades to come.”

Alaska Specific Items:

Alaska MILCON: The FY19 NDAA authorizes $286.8 million for Alaska military construction.

Alaska and the KC-46: Given Alaska’s status as the hub of combat airpower – with incoming F-35A squadrons, a large F-22 presence, and other strategically located aviation assets – these amendments express that the Air Force should, in the short-term, study the possibility of increasing the tanker mission at Eielson AFB due to increase requirements and, in the long-term, take a hard look at basing the OCONUS KC-46A at a strategically-located installation with abundant training opportunities – like Alaska.  

Cold Weather Training: Requires the Department of Defense to analyze current and future cold weather training requirements for all four services and to look for opportunities to expand cold weather training.  Notably, this provision requires an analysis of potential cold weather amphibious landing locations for live fire exercises.

Advocate for the Arctic: Strongly urges the Department of Defense finally designate primary responsibly for Arctic defense issues to a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.

U.S. Navy Icebreaker Requirements: Requires the Secretary of the Navy to inform the U.S. Coast Guard what equipment they plan to install on the new Polar, Heavy-class Icebreakers.

Innovative Readiness Training: This amendment supports funding future local reserve training projects in Alaska, including Operation Arctic Care, which provides roving medical and dental care to Rural Alaska villages.

Kodiak Spaceport: Given the importance of assured access to space to U.S. national security, this amendment highlights and encourages expanding the Department of Defense’s and the Missile Defense Agency’s use of FAA-licensed spaceports, like the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska on Kodiak Island, as a vital part of our space and missile-defense test missions.

Arctic Search and Rescue: The Alaska National Guard independently developed an Arctic search and rescue package that allows them to respond to potential large-scale mass-casualty events in the Arctic. This amendment brings attention to that effort and encourages the DOD to provide additional resources to field and expand Arctic search and rescue capabilities.

SUSV Replacement: This amendment requires the Department of Defense to conduct a DoD-wide operational needs review and to consider granting rapid acquisition authorities to procure a replacement to the SUSV.