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Boats 01-21-2021 05:58 AM

Army chief teases new Arctic strategy
Army chief teases new Arctic strategy
By: Jen Judson - Defense News - 01-21-21

Photo link:
Arctic Tough 1st Sgt. Jonathan M. Emmett leads U.S. Army Alaska Aviation Task Force Soldiers assigned to Headquarters Company, 1-52 Aviation Regiment, at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, as they conduct Cold Weather Indoctrination Course II (CWIC) training November 19, 2015. These Soldiers completed a three-mile snow shoe ruck march to their bivouac site and spent the night sleeping in Arctic 10-man tents. CWIC training is required of all Soldiers assigned to U.S. Army Alaska annually to ensure America's Arctic Warriors have the knowledge and experience to survive, train, operate, fight and win in extreme cold weather and high altitude environments. (Photos by Spc. Liliana S. Magers, U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs.)

WASHINGTON — Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville teased the recently completed Arctic strategy emphasizing it would provide the U.S. with capabilities to compete and deter conflict in the region.

The Army’s strategy recognizes “where our national interests are,” McConville said during an Association of the U.S. Army virtual event on Jan. 19, “and we certainly have and share national interests up in the Arctic.”

The “situation” is changing in the Arctic, he said, “and there’s more freedom of movement. We certainly want to make sure we protect our interests there and what we are doing in the Army and, certainly, as we look at Alaska, which sits in a very prominent place in the Arctic, we want to have the appropriate capabilities offered from the Army so that we can protect those interests.”

Those capabilities include transforming a two-star headquarters into an operational headquarters, McConville said.

And the Army is looking at establishing a Multidomain Task Force in the region as well as an arctic-capable Brigade, he added.

The Army’s only operational MDTF is based in the Indo-Pacific Region, but the service is on its way — albeit more slowly — to stand one up in the European theater.

The MDTF in the Pacific has done several years of work to help validate the Army’s Multidomain Operations (MDO) warfighting concept as the service transforms it into doctrine.

The Army follows the Navy and the Air Force in coming out with Arctic strategies, which have been released over the past two years.

U.S. Northern Command leadership in recent years has said the Arctic — as it warms — means the Arctic is the first line of defense of the U.S. homeland.

The Arctic is receding at a rate of about 13 percent per decade giving way for more activity from friends and foes of the U.S.

Russian forces have long projected power and continue to build out the world’s largest icebreaker fleet and have been building air bases and sea ports to house weapons and other operational capabilities.

And China has also increased its presence and desire to operate in the Arctic, vying for natural resources in the region as well as trade routes opening up as the ice melts.

Defense officials have been beating the drums to spend more money on training and capability for the cold, harsh Arctic climate.

And congressional appropriators provided $100 million for the U.S. North Warning System in the fiscal 2021 defense spending bill and is requiring the Pentagon to provide a report on the status of the system to include its operational integrity and what technology is used by the system compared to technology necessary to detect current and anticipated threats, particularly cruise missiles. The North Warning System is a joint U.S. and Canadian early-warning radar system for North American air defense.

The bill also requires the Defense Department to come up with a plan to modernize capability to defend the homeland against cruise missiles including the modernization of the North Warning System.

Appropriators also injected cash into a variety of Army cold-weather pursuits in the FY21 bill.

Lawmakers added $8.25 million more above the FY21 Army budget request to expedite a Family of Cold Weather Vehicles and required a report on current capabilities for arctic overland mobility capabilities.

Additionally, appropriators added $10 million for counter-unmanned aircraft technology for arctic environments, $8 million for rapid entry and sustainment capability for the region, $2 million for visual and tactic arctic reconnaissance and $1 million for sub-surface infrastructure in arctic environments. Another $50 million was added to develop arctic communications technology development.

The Army, in its FY21 budget request, kicked off a new-start effort for Cold-weather All-Terrain Vehicle -- or CATV -- but only budgeted for $1 million with funding to ramp up in subsequent years as the program progresses.

The Army’s Arctic strategy has yet to be publicly released.


About the writer: Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for nearly a decade. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.


Personal note: I was working on a job site in Northern Alberta in the dead of winter. Ft. Murray. - Artic gear highly recommended! When you left one bldg. to go to another you had to call that bldg. and tell them you were in route to their bldg. After 10 minutes if you didn't show up - they came out to find you. Bear's were picking folks off up there every now and then. Great I felt really secure!!

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