A new Arctic security research center at Anchorage’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson officially opened with a ceremony this week, marking a milestone in the federal government’s growing investment in Arctic strategy.
The Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies will facilitate Department of Defense research on the Arctic’s role in geopolitics, diplomacy and climate change. Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Randy “Church” Kee is serving as the center’s senior adviser for Arctic security affairs.
Thursday’s ceremony brought Alaska’s congressional delegation, state officials and military personnel to the former elementary school at JBER where the center will be housed.
Named for Alaska’s late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, the center is the sixth Defense Department regional facility of its kind. The other centers focus on Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, Africa, the Middle East and “Hemispheric Defense.”
The center’s opening is a win for U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, who have pressed to bring national attention to Alaska as strategically key to protecting U.S. security interests in the Arctic. Murkowski introduced the Arctic Commitment Act earlier this month to boost the military’s Arctic influence, and Sullivan pushed for $365 million for Alaska and Arctic military-related earmarks in the proposed Senate defense authorization for fiscal year 2023.
In a speech, Sullivan said the facility cements Alaska as the “center of gravity for America’s Arctic security operations.”
“At long last the Arctic, from the Department of Defense perspective, is now a place viewed in the Pentagon as one of critical strategic importance,” he added.
In recent years, U.S. officials have become wary of Russia’s military build-up in the region, which includes 50 icebreakers. China also declared itself a “near-Arctic state” in 2018, signaling interest in the region. Since 2020, every branch of the U.S. military has released an Arctic strategic plan.
Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer called the center’s opening “perfect timing.”
“The timing is good with all the conflict because the intent, I believe, of this center is to promote and conduct focused research on the Arctic security,” Meyer said in a speech. “The overall goal is to keep the Arctic region peaceful.”
Murkowski and Sullivan advocated for $10 million in funding for the center in the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. The Pentagon announced in November that the center would be located in Anchorage rather than in Washington, D.C., or Colorado Springs.
Murkowski said in a speech that she also wants to develop a U.S. Arctic ambassador role to deepen foreign relations in the region.
“I’m continuing to push to make sure that we don’t forget it on the diplomacy side,” Murkowski said of the Arctic. “We’ve got so much to do.”
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