Funding for the military in Alaska is increasing — as well it should with the state’s strategic location for national defense and economic advantage.
The 2018 Appropriations Bill approved this spring — the largest passed in 15 years — will grow the military presence here in terms of infrastructure.
One of the key points in the bill is a $150 million match of 2017 funds for a new polar icebreaker. This $300 million, added to anticipated icebreaker funding in the upcoming fiscal 2019 Department of Homeland Security budget request, will begin to build an icebreaking fleet necessary to compete with other nations with missions in the Arctic.
Russia, with its large fleet of icebreakers, is of concern to both Alaska and the federal government.
The appropriations bill also includes $51.5 million for U.S. Coast Guard housing and shoreside infrastructure projects, and directs the Coast Guard to support the Arctic Program Office when it comes to waterway safety.
Customs and Border Protection, in tandem with Canada, will be increasingly funded for improving maritime law enforcement at Alaska’s northern Arctic border.
Beyond the Arctic, the appropriations bill allots funds to the Pacific Spaceport Complex, formerly the Kodiak Launch Complex at Narrow Cape on Kodiak Island. The 3,700-acre complex is one of a few in the United States, and they will be receiving $10 million to enhance their capabilities.
Alaska’s complex has the highest orbit capability.
Another $105 million will be used for a flight test of an anti-ballistic missile defense system at the Kodiak-located complex. This is a joint effort with Israel.
The Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which includes all of the land, air, sea, space and cyberspace for military training in Alaska, will receive $6 million.
Still more funding will be directed toward Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Greely. Eielson is looking at $168.9 million toward basing two squadrons of the F-35A Join Strike Fighter aircraft there, and construction of missile interceptors will be built at Greely. The Greely funding is above what the Trump administration had requested.
This is a sizable investment in national defense within the state’s borders and for the Alaska economy. Just like Ketchikan benefits from the oil revenue generated primarily in other regions of the state, it also will experience positive defense and economic outcomes from the military funding.
It all increases the importance of Alaska on the national and world stage and provides jobs within the state. When possible, Alaska’s congressional delegation has pushed for local hire, and it is even written into parts of the appropriations bill.
The bill’s effects on Ketchikan might not be as evident as the tourist on the street during the next five months, but it will be as valuable for the future.
— Ketchikan Daily News,