The Arctic Institute's reaction to the Department of Defense Arctic Strategy

Washington D.C., 25 November 2013 - In response to the release of the Department of Defense Arctic Strategy The Arctic Institute’s Senior Fellow Kevin Casey said: 

“The Department of Defense Arctic Strategy represents an effort to operationalize the policy guidance contained in the 2013 National Strategy for the Arctic in a time of rapidly changing operating conditions in the Arctic and fiscal uncertainty in Washington DC.”

“Cognizant that both the climate and human activities in the Arctic are going through a phase of rapid evolution, the strategy seeks to avoid premature investments. The strategy seeks to bolster domain awareness and climate monitoring capabilities that can inform long-term decisions on big ticket investments such as facilities upgrades or ice-strengthened ships”, continued Casey.

“The strategy seeks to sustain the cooperative regime in the Arctic not only because it promotes shared security but also because it allows for burden- and cost-sharing when it comes to activities such as search and rescue and disaster response”, concluded Casey.

The Institute’s Seth Myers stated: “The strategy is important in-of-itself in that it formally re-establishes the military importance of the Arctic as a region of operations. It signals a strong U.S. commitment to active engagement and cooperation, while recognizing and outlining deeply-seated U.S. interests in the region.”

“In an era of sequestration, the strategy implicitly acknowledges the lack of comparative immediate threats emanating from the region, and reflects the fiscal reality that investment in Arctic platforms is unlikely to grow significantly in the immediate future given budgetary constraints”, Myers continued.

“Additionally, cooperation between combatant commands will be an important part of DoD strategy in the region moving forward. While CDRUSNORTHCOM is responsible for advocating for Arctic capabilities, EUCOM will be increasingly responsible for mil-mil cooperation and relationship-building, with six out of eight Arctic nations falling within its AOR”, Myers concluded.

The Arctic Institute fellow Mihaela David added: “The strategy raises significant questions and concerns about the division of responsibility and potential duplication of efforts between the DoD and the DHS’s Coast Guard with regards to their engagement in the Arctic. Both department have indicated in their strategic documents similar and possibly overlapping objectives, including protecting the homeland, preserving the freedom of navigation, increasing domain awareness, and developing appropriate infrastructure and capabilities.” 

“The DoD must clarify the nature of its involvement in the Arctic. What role will the Navy have in search and rescue or oil spill response operations, which are typically handled by the Coast Guard? Will the Department of Defense share the costs of building a new heavy icebreaker? The chronically underfunded Coast Guard could benefit from an injection of funding from the DoD, but takes pride in being the main safety and security provider in the U.S. Arctic region. With both naval and Coast Guard presence in the Arctic, will cooperation trump rivalry or will the two services end up stepping on each other’s toes?,” concluded David.

Kevin Casey, Washington, D.C.,, +1 435.200.5370
Seth Myers, Washington, D.C.,, +1 307.352.9133
Mihaela David, Washington, D.C.,, +1 518.491.8398