WASHINGTON ― When it comes to boosting the U.S. Defense Department’s role in the frigid Arctic, nobody in Congress seems hotter under the collar than Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.
A former Alaska attorney general and Marine Corps officer, Sullivan has spent his time in office evangelizing for Alaska’s strategic role in the region, grilling and cajoling Pentagon officials in public hearings, and pressing change through provisions in successive National Defense Authorization Acts.
By his account, the Department of Defense ― driven by Congress and the National Defense Strategy’s focus on Russia and China ― is starting to see things his way. It’s embracing the region’s emergence as an economic and strategic hot spot, as well as an area that requires military deterrence.
“Although it’s changing, the Pentagon has had to be dragged into this. They’ve been the laggard, not the leader,” said Sullivan, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee. “I’ve seen the awakening across the board, which is a positive thing, but we still need to get there.”
The lawmaker spoke to Defense News on May 2 about the Arctic’s importance to America’s national security, and what steps the government should take to ensure a strategic presence in the region.