Push from Washington, military officials to bolster Arctic strategy
The White House is making it known they want to enhance the U.S. presence in the Arctic. Alaska is the lone U.S. state that borders the Arctic, and leaders in Washington say they want to make sure the resources are there to strengthen the U.S. position. That efforts begins with ice breakers.
“The Arctic is an area where geo-strategic activity continues to rise at a pretty remarkable rate,” said Ret. Maj. Gen. Randy Kee, executive director of the Arctic Domain Awareness Center.
Kee says several nations are pushing for power in a region he says is often forgotten by most Americans. Kee says the U.S. lags behind others in the race, notably Russia and China. One main reason, he says, is an inadequate U.S. icebreaker fleet, ships that can plow through frozen terrain and navigate the region.
“Until the United States can field significantly more icebreaking capability than they have right now, the United States is really going to yield the initiative to those nations that can project power,” said Kee.
An optimistic sign for Kee came in the form of a recent White House memo that says the administration is set on moving ahead with bolstering the fleet.
“We want to continue to invest here and it’s not too late to make these investments now. I would recommend we do more sooner than later,” said Kee.
Kee admits improving Arctic strategy depends on the national purse which is controlled by lawmakers in Washington. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) say the wheels are in motion.
“There’s really strategic competition and we’ve awoken to this. But what we really need is the infrastructure,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan says he consistently prioritizes the Arctic in crafting the national defense budget and hopes this White House memo speeds up reinforcement in the region. Murkowski says it helps to have others on board with a better Arctic strategy beyond the members of the Alaska delegation.
“It was a very clear endorsement (from the White House) of what we have been doing on the legislating and appropriation side,” said Murkowski.
The White House memo lays out a goal of a new icebreaking fleet in place by 2029.