US make strides increasing presence, activity in Alaska, Arctic
Defending the Arctic and the coastlines of Alaska. Some of the foremost experts not only in the United States but other countries took part in a three-day Arctic Maritime Symposium on JBER to discuss Arctic strategies and concerns.
"What is of great concern to me as Commander is that Russia and China are fielding advanced military capabilities," Commander of NORAD AND USNORTHCOM Command Gen. Terrance O'Shaughnessy said. "Such as long range, air and sea launch cruise missiles, as well as developing new employment docs intended to exploit perceived gaps in air defense capabilities."
The Arctic Maritime Symposium is a concoction of Commander of the Alaska Command General Kenneth Wilsbach and other military leaders. The mission is a brainstorming event on how to better harness, monitor and defend the increase of activity in the Arctic.
"One of the major changes that has happened over the past few decades is the climate change," General Wilsbach said. "We see this in Alaska and other parts of the Arctic with the melting sea ice, and what that means is that there is increased human activity. For economics, national interest and military forces obviously, more frequenting the Arctic as well."
Fifty-five miles away from Alaska is Russia, who has aggressively built Arctic military capability, securing claims and expanding access along the Northern Sea Route. The Arctic region currently accounts for over for 20 percent of Russia's exports, goods and services.
"Keep in mind that for the Russians the Arctic is their front yard," General O'Shaughnessy said. "Not their backyard."
Interest from China is on the rise which means a strong U.S. presence in the Arctic is a must.
"The way forward for me is interagency effort, not just DOD," Gen. Wilsbach said. "If we have an inter-agency then the other equities will be addressed rather than just defenses."
Military leaders stress the importance of Alaska's growing role in defending the homeland.
"The United States is an Arctic Nation because of Alaska," Gen. O'Shaughnessy said. "It is appropriate that some of our most vital and lethal equipment is stationed here."
For the first time ever in the NDAA, a U.S. President has signed off on the authorization for six polar-class icebreakers. It is in law right now but still must go through appropriations.
"The fact that the Congress of the United States and the President of the United States said we need these and here is the timeline for them in law, that's important," Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan said. "I think we are making progress. Talking about Arctic issues means everyone and that is very significant and it means it is sustainable."
The subscription going forward for the U.S. is the best defense is a good offense while keeping the fight away from American shores.
"It's a continuous effort to educate many people in the Lower 48," Gen. Wilsbach said. "If you haven't been to Alaska or if you haven't read up or paid attention, you may forget that the United States is an Arctic nation. I spend a lot of time in the Lower 48 just making that point. We are an Arctic nation and we have interest in the Arctic. Therefore, we probably have a military mission here."
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