The Defense Department worked closely with other federal agencies in support of the National Security Staff effort that generated the National Strategy for the Arctic Region released today, a senior Pentagon official said.
Daniel Y. Chiu, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, said the strategy establishes a framework for future U.S. Arctic activities based on three lines of effort: advancing U.S. security interests, pursuing responsible Arctic region stewardship, and strengthening international cooperation.
“Our overarching emphasis is on sustaining a peaceful, stable, and conflict-free Arctic region in support of the National Strategy,” Chiu said. “In the near term, this means DOD will be prepared to support civilian authorities responding to an incident or natural disaster of such magnitude that it outstrips the local and state response capabilities. Over the longer term, the department will continue to prevent and deter conflict in the region and be prepared to respond to a wide range of contingencies.”
Though DOD has few niche Arctic capabilities — ski-equipped C-130 aircraft among them — it has an extensive assortment of capabilities that can be employed in a variety of operating environments that, with proper preparation, include the Arctic, Chiu noted. This approach is in keeping with DOD’s policy of preparing for a wide range of global challenges, and it supports the new strategy’s first line of effort, which is advancing U.S. security interests, he added.
“DOD sees the opening of the Arctic waters in the decades ahead as a prime opportunity to work cooperatively in multilateral forums over time to promote a balanced approach to improving human and environmental security in the region,” he said. “This is captured in the strategy’s third line of effort, strengthening international cooperation.”
As the Arctic becomes more accessible, Chiu explained, it will join the world’s other oceans and airspace as part of the vital web of global commerce and communication, from which all nations benefit. DOD supports use of existing mechanisms within the framework of existing international law, he added, including addressing issues such as resource development and preserving the rights, freedoms and uses of the sea as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.
“As the changing climate allows increasing access to the vast and remote Arctic region, human activity will increase as well, leading to increased chance of incidents,” he said. “While we must be prepared to respond to mishaps in a harsh and unforgiving environment, thoughtful development of measures to prevent accidents is of even greater importance. This makes responsible stewardship key to accomplishing our strategic priorities, one which DOD fully supports.”
The United States shares many common interests with the other Arctic nations and historically has cooperated well with them on a wide range of regional issues, from search and rescue to fisheries management, Chiu said.
“Russian support in sending the Motor Vessel Renda to provide emergency fuel to Nome last year is just one of many examples,” he added. “We expect that this tradition of cooperation will continue as the Arctic nations address new challenges presented by climate change.”