Murkowski Urges Administration to Stay Engaged in Arctic

Highlights Alaska as Proven Training Ground for Emerging Arctic Opportunities

During a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to consider the Fiscal Year 2020 budget request for the Navy and Marine Corps, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) emphasized the need for the military to pursue its significant and evolving opportunities in the Arctic, specifically asking what plans the branches have for accomplishing strategic objectives in the Arctic region.

The Committee heard from the following witnesses: U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer; Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson; and Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General Robert Neller.

“If you have other nation’s that are clearly non arctic nations that have as keen an interest as we are seeing right now, I am pushing us at all levels, at all departments to be engaged, to say engaged,” said Senator Murkowski.

Senator Murkowski questioned Navy and Marine Corps leaders on the current and future training taking place in Alaska and whether the administration’s budget request reflects Arctic priorities.

“We’ve increased the number of exercises that we’ve done up there. Several exercises in 2018 and 2019, over and above historical norms and consistent with our submarine ice camps up there,” said Admiral Richardson. “We sent the Harry S. Truman north of the Arctic Circle for the first time since 1991. And we’ve got more planned– a major exercise with the Marine Corps up in Alaska this fall and looking forward to continuing to build our skills there.”

“Whether there’s aircraft going out to Eielson and doing the instrumented ranges up there which is a great place to go because it’s the biggest airspace we have to go train. There’s a Marine regimental headquarters and some HIMARS rocket artillery up right now doing an exercise in support of NORTHCOM and Indo-PACOM. We’ve had more marines in Alaska in the past four to five years than I think we’ve had in the distant past,” said General Neller. “So we’re always looking at places to train or to deploy to get advantage of the training areas and there’s great training there at Elmendorf-Richardson and also up at Wainwright.

Defense Appropriations Hearing

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During the hearing, Senator Murkowski asked Secretary Spencer about the Navy’s interest in a deep-water port in the Bering Sea and any conversations in regards to funding such a port.

“When we started to peel the onion back you saw all the Arctic countries, what they are doing up there but more importantly and more concerning is the backbench countries who are not Arctic countries but are putting themselves into the area. So it is a definite area of concern and the United States Navy and Marine Corps are taking that into account,” said Secretary Spencer. “When it comes to the port, while we do not have a requirement for a port, yes, having a deep-water port such as Nome would be an advantage in the area. This summer, the CNO and I have talked about having an exercise go to the Bering Sea. We’re still exploring to see if we can do a full passage. There’s still ice up there in some places. We’ve been in the high Atlantic with the Truman. All of these, the drumming that you will see with regular operations in the Arctic.”

Defense Appropriations Hearing Secretary Spencer

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Senator Murkowski also questioned the military leaders about plans for training in Adak, Alaska. Navy Secretary Spencer said plans include an amphibious exercise, as well as making use of Adak’s airstrip. In addition, the Marine Corps is considering utilizing Adak for a September exercise.