Alaska’s senators renew call to close military resource gap in the Arctic

Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 5:46 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Alaska’s senators are renewing calls to close what they call a gap of military resources in the Arctic region. At the same time, the top military official in the region says the US is not fully equipped to defend itself.

At a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Wednesday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that President Biden needs to prioritize improving our defense capabilities in the Arctic in next year’s federal budget.

“Russia’s not sitting still. China’s not sitting still. I’m told that India is looking to build an icebreaker. At the rate that we’re going here, it’s kind of embarrassing to think that a country like India is gonna have an icebreaker in the water before we would,” said Murkowski.

Murkowski’s plea comes a week after the commander of U.S. Northern Command, General Glen VanHerck told the Senate Armed Services Committee the U.S. does not have the infrastructure, communications, and ability to respond to properly defend the region.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) is on the committee that is considering the 2024 defense spending plan.

“When you see a unified number of senators on both sides of the aisle and the NorthCom commander himself saying, ‘Yep. We need to do more.’ That’s a sign that we’re making some good progress,” said Sullivan.

The icebreaker issue has been key for both Murkowski and Sullivan. Sullivan said the U.S. has two while Russia, who is right next door, has 54 ships that can move through ice-covered waters. Sullivan also said the Chinese spy balloon should be another wakeup call.

“Any attack on the Lower 48 whether it’s New York, Chicago, you name it on our Lower 48 homeland is gonna go through the airspace of Alaska,” Sullivan said.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Daniel Davis agreed US airspace is a concern. He said if anything needs boosting in the Arctic, the US should step up its offensive and defensive missile capabilities.

“Because I assure you, any ship that Russia has in that Arctic would be a sitting duck and we could take that out with not much difficulty,” said Davis.

Davis argued no one is going nor does anyone have the infrastructure to invade our coast. And if someone wanted to, he said they would be wiped out hundreds of miles away.

We are still months away from finding out what makes it into the federal budget and national defense spending plans.