Murkowski Shares Alaskans’ Concerns Over Northern Edge with U.S. Navy

Senator Asks Navy Secretary to Engage with Concerned Alaskans Prior to Military Exercise

In response to hearing the concerns of coastal Alaskans about the timing and potential impacts of the Navy’s involvement in the Northern Edge 2017 joint military exercise, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) wrote a letter (attached) to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus urging the Navy to connect with concerned Alaskan communities moving forward. Murkowski cited a recent lack of transparency from the Navy, such as not discussing proposed mitigation and avoidance techniques with stakeholder communities, and wants to ensure greater collaboration and cooperation prior to Northern Edge 2017.

Northern Edge, a joint training exercise which stretches from the Gulf of Alaska to deep in Alaska’s Interior, is designed to sharpen tactical combat skills and improve command. It is a “U.S. only” exercise, much of which is conducted on a classified basis.

In her letter, Murkowski pointed out the lack of communication between the Navy and impacted communities prior to Northern Edge 2015, which resulted in public protests over the military exercise.

“I hoped that the Navy would learn from this experience and proactively work with stakeholders in planning for Northern Edge 2017. I was encouraged when the Navy took the initiative to participate in COMFISH2016, Alaska’s largest commercial fishing show. This was a good start, and I expected that it was the beginning of a sustained proactive outreach effort. Unfortunately, I was proven wrong.”

Murkowski argued that any further delay in communicating with the Alaskan communities could endanger support for the Navy’s long term involvement in Northern Edge exercise.

“I strongly encourage you to direct the Commander, Pacific Fleet, in conjunction with his partners at Alaskan Command, to reengage with stakeholders in the communities adjacent to Northern Edge 2017 with all deliberate speed.”

Murkowski noted, “The people of coastal Alaska communities, like other Alaskans, are strong supporters of the military. They need to know however that fishery conflicts will be avoided and marine resources will be protected.”

Background: In 2015, Senator Murkowski introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would require the military to engage with communities about planned training exercises at least six months in advance.

Related Issues: Defense

Related Files