This week, Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan hosted Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite in his first visit to the Arctic state. Secretary Braithwaite’s tour comes at an important crossroads for the American Arctic.
Senator Sullivan’s Leadership in the Arctic
Senator Sullivan’s efforts to develop and defend Alaska are making headway. Six new icebreakers are slated for construction, the expansion of the Nome port has been approved, and the President has turned his attention toward the Arctic.
The Senator has championed Arctic issues since his election to the Senate. He sponsored the Strategic Arctic Naval Focus Act of 2019, outlining the geopolitical challenges posed by China and Russia in the Arctic. The senator also sponsored the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2019, which would extend critical funding for Arctic defense, supply, and research.
In his video recap, Sullivan says he pressed the Navy Secretary on domestic manufacturing of the new icebreaker fleet and other infrastructure. Should this come to pass, it would be an immense boon for Alaska’s west coast and the state at large.
Alaska’s Need for Investment
At present, Alaska’s economy depends almost entirely on energy, tourism, and fishing. Large-scale civilian and military infrastructure development would bring in much-needed jobs and funds. Senator Sullivan is hoping to succeed in ensuring Alaskans are employed to maintain new infrastructure.
Lack of Vision in the American Arctic
Development projects like Senator Sullivan’s are unfortunately restrained by the lack of an overarching, coherent plan for the American Arctic. As a result, the region’s future is uncertain. In the wake of the coronavirus and heightened tensions with China, an Arctic industrial policy guaranteeing the security of the Alaskan economy is necessary.