U.S. Secretary of the Navy calls for greater presence in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act Monday, approving over $700 billion for the national defense budget for fiscal year 2019.

Photo provided by the U.S. Navy, displaying a submarine after breaking through ice in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's north coast. AP photo.

Over the past week in Alaska, we’ve seen service secretaries from three different military branches, the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy. Channel 2 wanted to know if these visits will actually prompt more concrete military spending in our state?

After speaking to Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer and Sen. Dan Sullivan Monday, one thing is clear: Alaska is well-positioned to receive more military funding.

The question is, when?

For Secretary Spencer, it comes down to talking less and doing more.

“Finish studying, start building,” he said. “Let's get up here and do things.”

He says studies to determine the feasibility of military facilities here in Alaska simply take too long. He says it’s time for that to change.

“Everything that we’re doing, all of our priorities, are framed with one phrase, and that’s ‘urgency,’” he said.

The military would need to build infrastructure for a stronger Navy presence in the Arctic, Spencer says, to keep up with China and Russia’s growing presence there.

“We need to have on-sea presence now that we have a blue water Arctic more times than not,” he said.

But Alaska has existing infrastructure just waiting to be opened for military training.

“I said, ‘What would it take to warm up Adak again?’ And I got a very quick study back that said 'a billion one’. I said, ‘That's not what I'm after. What I mean is, how can we start using it right now for training for an amphibious assault?'"

Sen. Sullivan says secretary visits are crucial to show Washington D.C. just how important Alaska is to the nation’s defense. He points to previous efforts to downsize JBER’s 4-25 infantry brigade combat team. It took bringing the Army Chief of Staff to Alaska to stop it.

“Alaska has some of the best training on the planet Earth,” Sullivan said. “You bring the Chief of Staff of the Army up here, he sees it firsthand, he recognizes that ‘Hey, something went wrong in our analysis,’ and then things start to happen.”

Sullivan says we currently have one functioning heavy class ice breaker, and the Coast Guard and Navy are currently building a new one.

Congress authorized construction of five more ice breakers through a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act. Sullivan says the next step is to find funding.

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