News-Miner opinion: The Department of Defense has three cities on its list, one of which will be the home of its newest security facility: Colorado Springs, Washington, D.C. and Anchorage.
There’s no question about it. The Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies should be housed in Alaska.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan pushed to create the center — named to honor the late Sen. Ted Stevens — and want it located in Alaska. Murkowski secured $10 million for it in the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act and said she “made very clear to the president and the Department of Defense that the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies should be located in Alaska — the state that makes America an Arctic nation.”
We have to agree. A Department of Defense center tasked with Arctic security issues and diplomacy is best at home in the very region it serves. Fairbanks, of course, is a seemingly overlooked choice as the center’s new home. Given our university, which already works with high-level defense issues and is steeped in Arctic science, and our military presence at Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base, Interior Alaska is a great fit for the center.
The center is in response to Russia and other nations pushing further into the Arctic, even militarizing the region as it thaws, opening up shipping lanes and natural resources. The Arctic no longer is a barrier to our adversaries. The center’s objectives to counter those nations’ ever-increasing footprints in the region include supporting Defense strategy objectives and policy priorities and building networks to increase diplomacy and cooperation in the region.
Its mission, the Defense Department says, will be “to engage in regional and global security issues through research, communication, and education.”
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Randy “Church” Kee, with ties to the University of Alaska and 30 years of military service, is the Defense Department’s senior adviser chosen to head the new center. Kee has a background that includes Arctic research and military studies. He also was a member of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center Polar Institute.
“His Arctic experience is vast,” Murkowski said after his appointment. “His military service is distinguished. On top of all that, he is an Alaskan.”
Alaska, the nation’s only Arctic state, is the best geo-political location for such a center. While we believe Fairbanks would have been a great choice for the center’s new home because of the treasure trove of Arctic knowledge at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Anchorage’s pick as a potential home at least keeps Alaska in the running.
The Ted Stevens center joins the Defense Department’s five other regional centers tasked with educating and training U.S. and foreign leaders. They are the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies located in Germany; the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii; the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies in Washington, D.C.; the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C.; and, the Near East-South Asia Center for Strategic Studies located in Washington, D.C.
While the United States is perhaps late out of the gate on Arctic issues, the new center is a valuable asset, another arrow in this nation’s quiver, to counter what is becoming an increasingly complicated and perhaps dangerous Arctic. That is just one more reason it should be located in Alaska.