Secretary of the U.S. Army visits Alaska
Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper touched down in Alaska on Monday as part of an Army reacquaintance tour that’s taken him from Kandahar to Korea and to bases all over the United States.
Esper is responsible for all matters pertaining to the U.S. Army, and Alaska is strategically positioned to be a major player in the military rebuilding efforts of President Donald Trump.
At a joint press conference Wednesday, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan stressed the importance of Alaska related to three pillars of America’s military might.
“We are the cornerstone of our nation’s missile defense. We are the hub of air combat power for the Asia Pacific and the Arctic,” explained Sullivan. "We are a platform for expeditionary forces-- the 425, the 1st Stryker Brigade, the Army National Guard-- to deploy on a moments notice anywhere in the world.”
With President Trump set to sign the National Defense Authorization Act in the next few days, Sullivan will be hosting the secretaries of the Air Force and Navy, as well as Secretary Esper. While recruiting numbers are down, Esper believes that the readiness of troops, equipment and training are on the rise.
"The Army is on a great trend right now with regard to rebuilding readiness and I think we’ll meet our goals here in the next couple of years and so I’m very excited about that,” said Esper. “We have a great economy and I would not trade in a great economy for one more soldier, but that means we have to operate more innovatively, differently and really focus on what we need to achieve."
Sullivan says the National Defense Authorization Act, when signed, will fund the military with more than $700 billion. Alaska will see $300 million additional for military construction, raising the total to $1.3 billion in the last three years. Esper says that from a national defense strategy, we’ve entered an era of great power-competition and Alaska is a prime location to help deal with threats from Russia and China.
“It doesn’t take much to look at the map and understand Alaska’s geography with regard to Russia and China… the importance of Alaska in that geo-strategic game,” said Esper. “Not just geography, but then knowing how to operate function and as I like to say, deploy, fight, and win in an arctic environment."
When asked about cybersecurity following an attack on MatSu recently, Esper said it’s a new domain for the Army, but also that his branch of the armed forces is taking a strong leadership role in regards to cyber activities.
“We are thinking hard about how we integrate cyber into our combat formations from the brigade level and above, so that on the future battlefield… that is a capability a commander will have at his hands to really fight the fight across the entire spectrum of conflict,” said Esper.
Secretary Esper held town hall-style meetings at Fort Wainwright and Fort Greely on Monday and Tuesday, before doing the same Wednesday at Fort Richardson, with plans to continue meeting troops and their families on Thursday. Also Thursday, Senator Sullivan will be hosting Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson for a visit to JBER on what’s being described as an “orientation visit.”
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