Army Chief to Murkowski on JBER Cuts: “It Would be Contrary to Strategic National Security Interest”
Proposes One-Year Delay to Examine Strategic Situation
Today U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) received assurances from the Army that the 4-25 Army Brigade at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson remains strategically vital to our nation’s security and should not be cut at this time. General Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army, traveled to Alaska earlier in February for the specific purpose of observing the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) of the 25th Infantry Division.
Today in a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Senator Murkowski questioned General Mark Milley about the proposed reductions:
“In your military judgement, do you think that the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team at JBER should be retained as a strategic deterrent to Russia and to support our military objectives in the Pacific?”
General Milley responded by saying he does think the 4-25 Army Brigade should be retained given Russia aggression and increased activity in the Arctic, explaining:
“…I think it would be contrary to strategic national security interests to go ahead and pull out the 4-25 at this time. So my thought is that we should extend them at least a year to see how the strategic situation develops and then move from there. We can’t predict the future, but we want that capability in the kit bag of the President of the United States, the Combatant Commander, and the Secretary of Defense and to have that tool available, if required. They can rapidly deploy, they are less than 8 hours from any hotspot—not only in the Pacific but in other parts of the world. There’s a great joint strategic deployment platform up there with Air Force capabilities—they can move by air, they can move by sea. So we’ve got a national capability there that I think is worthwhile keeping. I confirmed that through personal site visits. I talked to the Commander. I’ve talked to the soldiers. So I think we need to at least keep them for an additional year. Defer our decision for one year, and that would be my best military advice at this time.”
(Click image to watch video of Senator Murkowski and General Milley discuss the 4-25 Brigade.)
Murkowski responded to General Milley:
“That is very welcome news and much appreciated, and a true recognition of what we have with the only Airborne Brigade Combat Team there for the Pacific. Arctic-trained, mountain-trained, you know all the superlatives. So thank you for recognizing and acknowledging that. I look forward to working with you to ensure that the capabilities that we have with the 4-25th are continued to allow for that robust security that we need specifically at this time.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young have been adamantly opposed to troop reductions at JBER and have continued to work to convince the Army to re-think their decision of cutting the 4-25 Airborne Brigade. On May 26, 2015 Senator Murkowski wrote a letter, attached, to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter demanding that JBER be taken off the list of bases under consideration for Army force structure reductions. In August of 2015, the Alaska congressional delegation sent a letter to Secretary of the Army at the time, John McHugh, requesting answers on U.S. Army Alaska force structure reductions.