Alaska is back on the Pentagon’s radar, Sullivan says

a person speaks into a microphone
Sen. Dan Sullivan at a 2021 event in Anchorage. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan says Alaska is back as a recognized location of importance for the U.S. military and national security.

Sullivan noted that a decade ago the Pentagon wanted to close Alaska bases. But no longer.

“I would say the Pentagon, which literally, in my view, was the last entity in Washington, D.C. to recognize the strategic importance of the Arctic, has finally got with the program,” Sullivan said Alaska Public Media’s “Talk of Alaska” show Tuesday. “Now, a lot of it we’ve had to kind of shove them into this. But, you know, we have a very significant military buildup going on in our state.”

Alaska has more F-35 and F-22 fighter jets than any other state, Sullivan said.

It also has the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies. Its director, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Randy Kee, said the two-year-old center focuses on “soft power.” He said it brings U.S. military and security experts together with those from allied countries to explore regional threats and solutions.  

“So they’re more competent, therefore, they’re more confident,” Kee said. “And therefore, we can more easily demonstrate the resolve it takes to tell all our competitors, keeping from becoming our adversaries, ‘Today’s not the day to mess with the United States of America, or our allies and partners that are trying to secure our national and respective allied interest across the Arctic region. Today’s not that day.’”

Another sign of renewed attention on the north came two weeks ago, when the Homeland Security Department awarded $46 million to the University of Alaska Anchorage to lead an Arctic Center of Excellence. The center is intended to bring together experts in cybersecurity, emergency management and related fields.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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