Saturday, November 23, 2013

Still No Mention of POLARCOM

Secretary of Defense Hagel announced American intentions in the Arctic at the annual Halifax security conference. Still no mention of a dedicated American command structure focused on the region.

Setting aside questions of the secretary's expertise on climate change, we intend to operate more in the Arctic:

-- Remain prepared to detect, deter, prevent and defeat threats to the United States, and continue to exercise U.S. sovereignty in and around Alaska.

-- Work with both private and public-sector partners, including the state of Alaska and Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Coast Guard, to improve understanding and awareness of the Arctic environment “so that we can operate safely and effectively.”

-- Help preserve freedom of the seas throughout the region, within existing frameworks of international law.

-- Carefully evolve U.S. Arctic infrastructure and capabilities at a pace consistent with changing conditions.

-- Comply with existing agreements with allies and partners, while also pursuing new avenues of cooperation.

-- Be prepared to help respond to man-made and natural disasters in the region.

-- Work with other agencies and nations, as well as Alaska natives, to protect the environmental integrity of the Arctic.

-- Finally, “We will support the development of the Arctic Council and other international institutions that promote regional cooperation and the rule of law.”

So this is the Defense Department's view of our national strategy for the Arctic. I shudder to know what the State Department's will be regarding the Law of the Sea.

I guess we aren't at the point where we will set up a Polar Command to join our other commands that specialize in regional security issues.

But this is a new effort that will span years and decades, the secretary stated.

Fighting or just surviving in the Arctic is unique. We should be talking to the Finns and Norwegians, especially, in addition to the Canadians and our own Alaska Army National Guard--we once had National Guard scout battalions there, mostly of Eskimos in the Guard.

But I can't find any references to them. All I could find was something here at home on paper referencing Alaska scout battalions. It's possible that as Alaska has moved toward missile defense roles that the organizations up there have become more like lower 48 units--but living in the cold.

And it isn't just about restraining Russia and keeping China out. We even have disputes with Canada.

Also, here's a background briefing on the speech.

But it is nice to see recognition of a new region of interest.