An Alaska Native corporation provides safe passage for employees stuck in Afghanistan.
Alaska’s premier fish marketing agency is caught in a cyber incident. And Fairbanks’ housing shortage impacts military members at Eielson Air Force Base.
There’s more in “Five Things to Know.”
Goldbelt for Rep. Don Young
Goldbelt Inc., an Alaska Native corporation that supported the State Department in Afghanistan, successfully evacuated employees stranded in the country after the Taliban seized control.
U.S. Rep. Don Young’s office announced Friday that the Goldbelt employees and their families were flown by chartered plane to Qatar in September.
“As conditions deteriorated, my staff and I worked around the clock to secure these employees’ safe passage,” Young said.
Zack Brown, communications director for Young told the News-Miner: “For privacy reasons and because their visas are still being processed, we are unable to share specific passenger details.
"What I can share is that Goldbelt worked directly with Congressman Young to secure evacuation of their employees as part of a larger group comprised of nearly 400 individuals.
"On September 17, 2021, at 10:54 p.m. local time, the aircraft carrying the Goldbelt employees and others departed Mazar-e-Sharif International Airport with 380 passengers on board and landed at 12:19 a.m. local at Al Udeid Airbase in Qatar.
"This was a private chartered flight that worked with the State Department for all necessary clearances to depart Afghanistan.”
McHugh Pierre, Goldbelt president, said that Young and his staff reached out to the State Department and White House to help ensure the evacuation of remaining workers, who are Afghan nationals.
The stranded employees and their family members faced threats and persecution from the Taliban for assisting the U.S. military in their home country.
Something fishy at seafood institute
The cyberattacks against Alaska state agencies continue. This time the Wild Alaska Seafood Institute is on the line.
The state agency was caught in a cybersecurity incident discovered in August that impacted some employees and functions, according to Alaska Public Media.
The Wild Alaska Seafood Institute is providing few details on the cybersecurity incident that it discovered in August. The state agency said it has fully restored services after some employees and programs were impacted, Alaska Public Media reported.
Jeremy Woodrow, executive director of the institute, said Friday he cannot provide additional details “due to the nature of the incident.”
The Wild Alaska Seafood Institute is the state’s primary marketing agency for Alaskan seafood, a multi-billion dollar industry. Its board includes prominent business leaders and politicians.
Other state agencies have been targeted in recent cybersecurity attacks.
In May, the Department of Health and Social Services was the victim of a malware attack that took services offline. The DHSS intrusion was reported a month after a cyber attack disabled the online Alaska court system.
State officials have said that the investigation is ongoing and they cannot disclose much information. Still unknown is whether any of the attacks are related.
Security professionals cite the risk and potential in large-scale attacks for lateral movement by the cyber criminals across agencies to other networks connected to an original entry point.
Knowing whether the cyber criminals have been booted from the system can be a challenge, with some hackers establishing themselves on systems and then re-emerging after a period of time.
Tighter security clearances
A new vetting process for Department of Defense workers with security clearances will affect up to 4 million federal employees, including thousands of Alaskans.
In Alaska, 9% of the workforce is employed by the Defense Department.
The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency announced a transition this week to a continuous surveillance program for many security clearance holders at DoD.
The program automatically scans multiple national databases for new information.
While some defense employees in sensitive positions already are subject to the continuous reviews, the change vastly expands the scope of the program.
Typically, background checks for most security clearance positions are on a cyclical basis, every five to 10 years.
Housing shortage impacts military families
Air Force Lt. Gen. David Krumm told the legislative Joint Armed Services Committee in Juneau this week that service members at Eielson Air Force Base cannot find housing in the community for their families.
The Air Force is advising service members not to move their families to greater Fairbanks right now because of the shortage.
Krumm said he is working with the governor and other leaders to address the problem, as the U.S. military expands its presence in Alaska.
“We would love your help in making sure builders are incentivized to build homes,” Krumm told the state legislative committee. “We need that capability.”
Krumm also noted the importance of quality public schools for military families moving from out of state to the greater Fairbanks area.
He said that the teacher-student ratio here is a concern expressed by military families. Parents also are worried about the ratio of school counselors to students.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski supports Native judgeship
Sen. Lisa Murkowski is among six Republican senators to confirm a Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen as a new federal judge.
Lauren King, a member of the Oklahoma tribe, is the sixth Native American to ever serve in the federal judiciary. She joins the U.S. District Court in Seattle.
In addition to Murkowski, Republican senators who voted for King are Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mike Rounds of South Dakota.
The Senate voted 55-44 to confirm the nomination.
Editor's note: This article was updated Oct. 9, 2021, with additional comments from Rep. Don Young's office.