Sullivan Votes for Defense Bill with Critical Arctic, Missile Defense Authorizations

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) joined 88 of his colleagues in voting for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which provides $700 billion in vital defense spending for Fiscal Year 2018. Senator Sullivan was able to include 28 amendments and provisions in the FY 2018 NDAA.

“The overwhelmingly bipartisan passage of the NDAA is a significant – and long overdue – step toward rebuilding America’s military strength,” said Senator Sullivan. “At the same time threats around the globe have grown in number and severity, the defense budget has declined by nearly one-quarter over the past several years. The Senate sent a powerful message to our Armed Forces, our allies, and our adversaries, that we intend to substantially increase military funding. From advancing missile defense and enhancing our Arctic interests to supporting our troops and reassuring our allies, I was proud to include provisions in this year’s bill that will both protect American citizens and help Alaska.”

Advancing Homeland Missile Defense:

“Despite increased U.S. diplomatic pressure, North Korea continues its highly provocative missile and nuclear testing,” said Senator Sullivan. “Meanwhile, our nation’s top military leaders continue to warn that it’s no longer ‘if’ North Korea will have the capability to strike U.S. cities with a nuclear missile, but ‘when.’ By including the vast majority of the substance of my missile defense bill, the Senate today made a strong and bipartisan statement that we recognize the threat, and we will lead the way in bolstering our nation’s ability to protect the U.S. homeland from an unstable and unpredictable North Korean dictator.”

Earlier this year, Senator Sullivan introduced S.1196, the Advancing America’s Missile Defense (AAMD) Act. Senator Sullivan’s missile defense amendment to the NDAA – like the AAMD Act – includes an increase of up to 28 ground-based interceptors (GBIs). This is the second largest GBI capacity increase ever, and up to 20 of these GBIs are slated to go to Fort Greely, Alaska. The amendment also includes language to help jump-start silo construction at Fort Greely and calls for a report analyzing the potential for up to 104 GBIs distributed across the U.S. In addition, as a part of $630 million in added funding for the Missile Defense Agency, Senator Sullivan also worked to secure an additional $27.5 million to begin the development of new space-based missile defense sensor technologies.

Securing our Arctic Interests:

“I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in the Senate in a bipartisan manner to secure the authorization of up to six new icebreakers, the largest single authorization of icebreakers ever,” Senator Sullivan said. “I am hopeful that this much-needed authorization will begin to dramatically improve America’s Arctic capabilities and access to this region, which many recognize is growing in strategic importance. With rapidly increasing commercial interest in the Arctic and Russia’s continued military build-up, the Senate today showed that America intends to secure its interests in this critical part of the globe.”

Senator Sullivan included ten Arctic-related provisions in the FY 2018 NDAA, including the authorization of six new polar-class icebreakers, an examination of ice-hardening Navy vessels, and a Department of Defense review of what forces, capabilities, infrastructure, and deep water ports are needed to protect U.S. security interests in the Arctic region. Furthermore, the FY 2018 NDAA mentions the Arctic 61 times, more than the past two NDAAs combined.

Search and Rescue Provisions:

“Alaska’s Air National Guard Rescue Squadrons provide year-round life-saving rescue services in Alaska, and overseas when deployed,” Senator Sullivan said. “Alaskans know the importance of our state’s search and rescue capabilities and, as a result, I fought to include language to help drive the modernization of our Air National Guard combat rescue units, encourage Active Duty rescue units to do additional training in Alaska, increase the number of helicopters in Alaska’s rescue squadrons, and secure funding for the innovative Arctic Sustainment Package.” 

Overall, Senator Sullivan included five combat rescue-related provisions in the FY 2018 NDAA.   

Rebuilding the Military and Restoring Readiness

“For too long, we have under-funded and under-resourced our nation’s military,” said Senator Sullivan. “This year’s NDAA gives a well-deserved pay raise to our nation’s brave men and women in uniform and finally begins the process of rebuilding our country’s military capability.”

The NDAA secured critical end strength increases with 5,000 additional active-duty soldiers and 1,000 active-duty marines. Additionally, the NDAA supported an across-the-board 2.1% pay raise for U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.

Alaska-specific Provisions and Funding:

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 – Senator Sullivan’s amendments express that the Air Force should, in the short-term, study the possibility of increasing the number of tankers at Eielson AFB 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.

Innovative Readiness Training: Senator Sullivan’s amendment supports 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, Senator Sullivan’s 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.

Israeli Arrow-3 Test on Kodiak: Fully authorizes the test of an Israeli missile defense system – the Arrow-3 missile system – set to take place at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska in 2018.

SUSV Replacement: Senator Sullivan’s amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to develop a practicable and executable acquisition strategy for the procurement of the Joint All-Terrain/All-Weather Support Vehicle (JAASV)—a replacement for the nearly 40-year-old Small Unit Support Vehicle (SUSV).

Large-scale Exercises in the JPARC: In response to recent large-scale air and land exercises by some of our adversaries, Senator Sullivan’s amendment drives the Department of Defense to begin planning additional large-scale air and land combined exercises, and requires them to analyze ideal locations for these exercises, like Alaska’s Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC). 

Alaska Military Construction at Eielson Air Force Base: The NDAA fully authorizes $168.9 million for military construction at Eielson AFB related to the beddown of two F-35A squadrons in 2020.

$6.3 billion for procuring 60 F-35A fighters: The NDAA includes an additional $1.8 billion to fund 14 aircraft more than the administration’s request. These authorized F-35As are likely part of the F-35As which will beddown at Eielson AFB.

International Focus:

FONOPs Policy: Senator Sullivan’s amendment makes clear that the policy of the U.S. with regard to Freedom of Seas is “to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.” It also states that the Secretary of Defense should routinely and regularly conduct freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in critical transportation corridors and, where possible, do so with our allies. 

Importance of Allies: One of the greatest advantages the United States has is that it is an ally rich nation and our potential adversaries are ally poor. Senator Sullivan’s amendment includes language to let both our allies and adversaries know that United States intends to both deepen our existing alliances and foster new ones.

U.S.-Japan Relationship: Senator Sullivan’s amendment expresses the Sense of the Senate that the U.S. and Japan are indispensable partners and the security alliance between our two countries plays an essential role in promoting peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Counter Russian Activity in Europe and the Arctic: Senator Sullivan’s amendment robustly supports the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) – a fund developed to counter Russia’s provocative activities and authorized at $4.6 billion this year’s NDAA – and notably includes the Arctic as an area where U.S. military forces are needed to counter increased Russian aggression.

# # #