Inside the Gates: Sullivan, Trump tout Alaska military spending
During Tuesday's State of the Union Address, President Trump made it a point to praise the nation's military, amid construction that has brought a massive economic influx to Alaska.
"Over the past two years, we have begun to fully rebuild the United States military with $700 billion last year and $716 billion this year," Trump told Congress.
Over the last three years, Alaska has seen $1.3 billion in military construction, much of which Sen. Dan Sullivan says is linked to ballistic missile defense.
"Just two weeks ago at the Pentagon, the president announced the Missile Defense Review mandated by Congress," Sullivan said. in it, the only state highlighted by the President as critical in regard to missile defense was Alaska."
Currently the state of Alaska is working on three major military projects: $550 million in 2019 construction at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks to host 52 F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters; the expansion of Fort Greely in Delta Junction to accommodate 20 more ground-based missile interceptors; and constructing the Long Range Discrimination Radar at Clear Air Force Station in Anderson. The $1 billion midcourse tracking radar will provide continuous coverage to target ballistic missiles, while better distinguishing warheads from decoys.
"Let's face it," Sullivan said. "That's great news for the security of our countr,y but it also means a lot of jobs here in Alaska."
Sullivan says he asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hire Alaska businesses, contractors and workers to do the work.
"Why? Because we do it the best," Sullivan said. "Alaskans do it the best."
Sullivan says it's also a good use of America's taxpayer dollars.
"An example I give is: Let's say you hire a contractor from Atlanta, Georgia or Miami, Florida," Sullivan said. "You hire them to come up to [Clear] in February, 40 below zero, it's dark, to work on the Long Range Discrimination Radar project. Those guys aren't going to know what to do; our people will."
Anchorage's Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is seeing only a small portion of this year's construction.
"A lot is in the Interior, but it is significant," Sullivan said. "It's a positive economic impact for our state, spread all over."
The recent partial shutdown of the federal government did not stop construction of the projects, because they are already funded by 2018 defense spending. It also didn't affect the four main branches of the military, but it did affect the U.S. Coast Guard under the Department of Homeland Security.
"I don't think shutdowns help anybody," Sullivan said. "There's a lot of work we need to do in order to not have another partial government shutdown."
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