On December 2nd, Secretary of the Navy Rear Admiral Kenneth Braithwaite II, USN (ret.), Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday, and Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger testified before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Navy and Marine Corps Readiness. During the hearing, climate change, and the threat it poses to US national security interests, was discussed.
Subcommittee Chairman Senator Sullivan (R-AK) began the discussion by asking Secretary of the Navy RADM Braithwaite what the upcoming Naval Arctic Strategy will look like. Secretary of the Navy RADM Braithwaite started by noting that the Arctic Ocean is now navigable year-round. As such, the US must increase its presence, especially given the US is an Arctic nation. Additionally, great power competition in the region is increasing; Russia has remilitarized large parts of its Arctic border and China has declared itself a “near-Arctic state.”
The recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes provisions pertaining to a navigable Arctic. It authorizes the development of three Polar Security Cutters (icebreakers), which will bring the US total to five. This is important given Russia and China both have significantly more. The NDAA also includes $150 million for military construction in Alaska and the establishment of a new regional Department of Defense (DOD) Arctic Center. It will be the first regional DOD center in the Arctic and will focus on defense strategy objectives and Arctic policy priorities. Finally, $46 million was authorized for Arctic communications capabilities. Traditional satellite-based communications is limited in the Arctic and nations have been working to develop and deploy upgraded systems.
When asked about base resilience, all three witnesses testified that military infrastructure is “old and antiquated” and that current plans prioritize rebuilding with resilience in mind. Chief of Naval Operations ADM Gilday said that the Navy has been “reactive, not proactive” to resilience concerns; however, Secretary of the Navy RADM Braithwaite noted that “we can’t be a ready force unless we ensure that we’re operating from bases that are resilient.” The committee underscored the need for future planning to prioritize resilience to prevent spending money on infrastructure that is going to be damaged by climate change.
ASP has done extensive work on climate security in the Arctic and military base resilience. Recently published resources on these topics include:
The Arctic & Climate Security
- Perspective – Arctic Climate Change: Implications for U.S. National Security
- Climate Change is a Top DOD Management Challenge for 2021
- Russia and the Arctic Council: What Happens Next?