Murkowski Secures Major Investments for Military in Alaska

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today announced a series of significant victories for Alaska in the Fiscal Year 2017 Defense and Homeland Security appropriations bills, which were unanimously approved this morning by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Through her position on the Appropriations Committee, including both the Defense and Homeland Security Subcommittees, Murkowski advocated for and secured full funding for a new Polar icebreaker, new investments in the Coast Guard that will increase safety in the Arctic and on our waters, and an expanded military presence in Alaska that will boost national security.

The Defense and Homeland Security appropriations bills will now head to the Senate floor for final consideration.

“The defense and homeland security bills echo a common theme – Alaska is among the most strategic places in the world from a national security standpoint. It is imperative that we have the most capable assets available in the region—whether that means investing in the Coast Guard to keep Alaska’s waters safe, supporting innovative missile defense technology, or increasing military aviation capabilities in the Interior,” said Murkowski. “Where we place our strategic assets needed to be responsive is crucial not only from a national security perspective, but for fisheries enforcement and search and rescue missions as well. This is one of the strongest national security budgets Alaska has seen in a long time.”

U.S. Coast Guard Presence in Alaska and the Arctic

  • National Security Cutters (NSC):
    • Funded at $255 million, of which $95 million allocated for long lead time materials for a 10th NSC. 
    • Recognizing the NSC’s ability to operate in the harshest and most challenging environment, Murkowski secured language directing the U.S. Coast Guard to strongly consider homeporting an NSC in close proximity to the Arctic.
      • Click here for audio of Senator Murkowski discussing the need to homeport an NSC as close to the Arctic as possible.
  • Polar Icebreaker: Murkowski supported $1 billion to fully fund construction of a heavy icebreaker. Murkowski has for years advocated and argued for full funding to construct a polar icebreaker.
  • Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC):
    • Funded at $100 million.
    • Language was included directing the Coast Guard to station at least two OPCs in Kodiak, Alaska to address the aging of USCG assets in the Arctic and Bering Sea.
  • Fast Response Cutter (FRC):
    • Funded at $325 million.
    • Two FRCs are scheduled to be stationed in Ketchikan in 2017.
  • CG Base Kodiak: Murkowski secured $22 million for upgrades to CG Base Kodiak to support future OPC homeporting and current NSC operations.
  • Search and Rescue: Murkowski secured language directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to report on the plans of the Coast Guard to ensure long-term search and rescue capabilities in the Arctic.
  • Response Capabilities: Murkowski inserted an amendment directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to report on the Coast Guard’s plans to ensure it is capable of conducting its response missions throughout the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean.
  • Alaskan Asset Replacement Plan and Coverage: Murkowski secured language expressing concern over the Coast Guard’s coverage plans in Alaska this summer due to recent drydocks. Murkowski also secured language directing the Coast Guard to reevaluate its homeporting plan for NSCs, OPCs, and FRCs, to take into account Alaska’s strategic position, increased activity in the Arctic, and long-term resource development.

Alaska’s Strategic Role in National Security

  • F-35 Acquisition: Appropriates $100 million over the administration’s request to begin procurement of the 54 F-35A aircraft slated for Eielson AFB, Alaska. The bulk of funding to build this aircraft is expected to come from the administration’s FY18 request.
  • Retention of 4-25 Airborne Brigade: The Senate Appropriations Committee expressed its support for the Army’s decision to delay the downsizing of the 4-25 Airborne Brigade at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) but went a step further and suggested that the Army cancel the downsizing plan altogether. Murkowski also secured language requesting the Army to recognize the mission and strategic value of the 4-25 as the only Airborne brigade in the Pacific.
  • Pacific Spaceport Complex - Alaska (Kodiak): Provides $10 million to the Air Force for sustainment of state-operated launch facilities which contribute to national security. The Missile Defense Agency recently announced its interest in using Kodiak to test the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor system.   
  • Long Range Discrimination Radar Research and Development: Funded at $162 million to support the research and design for the radar equipment that will be built at Clear Air Force Station. This is in addition to the $155 million in construction funds for the radar already approved by the Senate in the FY17 Military Construction appropriations bill.
  • Missile Defense Agency SBX Sea Based Radar: $20 million over the Administration’s request to support reliability and maintenance of the floating, self-propelled sea based missile defense radar. 
  • Arctic Defense Infrastructure: The Committee reprimanded the Pentagon for its failure to deliver a report requested by Murkowski in the FY16 Defense appropriations bill fully disclosing how the budget supports the Defense Department’s Arctic strategy. The Committee directed the Pentagon to perform the same analysis this year and warned that it will hold back funding from the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Policy) if the Pentagon fails to comply with this directive.
  • Arctic Search and Rescue: Murkowski secured language directing the Secretary of the Air Force to review Arctic search and rescue requirements, given the increased commercial aircraft and vessel traffic in the Arctic region.
  • Civil Air Patrol: Murkowski helped to secure an additional $11 million to support the lifesaving work of Civil Air Patrol squadrons in Alaska and throughout the nation.

Arctic Maritime Domain Awareness: Directs the Secretary of Defense to expedite a report outlining the Department’s capacity to respond to and prepare for emergencies and to better understand the Arctic environment and its challenges.

Related Issues: Defense, Arctic