Congressional Arctic Working Group National Security Briefing

Oct 18, 2016
Blog Post
On October 13, 2016, the Congressional Arctic Working Group hosted a briefing on National Security issues in the region..

- Ms. Julie Gourley, Senior Arctic Official, Department of State

- Mr. John Pendleton, Director of Force Structure and Readiness Issues, Government Accountability Office

- Ms. Sherri Goodman, Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Member, Joint Ocean Commission Initiative

- Dr. Jeremy Mathis, Director of Arctic Research Office, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Julie Gourley: I’d like to take the opportunity to come here and talk to you about Arctic Security, which is a topic that is, often-- that generates a lot of confusion, let’s say, both inside and outside the government. So it’s a good topic to have a panel discussion on, and there are lots of perspectives about it. In my job as the Senior Arctic Official, I get to see the entire range of issues in the Arctic, and it’s a huge amount of stuff.  It’s a really rich region full of lots and lots and lots of issues. And they’re all interrelated in one way or another, they really are, so it’s good to see Arctic security and context of the larger Arctic region and the role it plays there.

 So, security itself is a large topic. It has a number of dimensions. Generally you can, I would say, ascribe security to two sort of broad baskets, hard security on the one hand, which is normally referred to more as military security I would say, and military doctrine and theories and activities. And on the other hand, more soft security, as we say, and that refers to more to certain non-military security issues like environmental emergencies and humanitarian crises, illegal activities, protection of economic interests, things like that.

So, right where I would start is a little bit of focus on Russia because that’s the country everyone immediately jumps to, I think, when they think about Arctic security. And contrary to the general perception, there really are no significant hard military security issues in the region right now. Certainly there’s lots going on with Russia outside the Arctic, but really that hasn’t spilled into the region, and in fact, all of the Arctic countries cooperate quite well with Russia still--even today-- in the Arctic space. And all of us have agreed that, without regard to the rest of the world and the other issues that we’re involved with Russia, in the Arctic we still cooperate because it’s in everyone’s interest to do that-- especially right now as we have the chairmanship of the Arctic Council among other things. So while it is true that Russia is reinvigorating its military presence in its part of the Arctic in order to protect its offshore economic interests, frankly all countries would do the same. And I think we would if we had more of a sort of a military and even coast guard presence in the Arctic than we do now, up in part of Alaska anyway. But the fact is, there’s really no evidence of aggressive intent by Russia, despite the reinvigoration of its military assets in the region.

 And I think what triggers sometimes some of the confusion is that people often rush to judgment about the continental shelf, and the extended continental shelf in particular, and that’s where a lot of the confusion, I guess, arises on what’s actually going on on the ground in Russia and in the Arctic and with respect to Russia and their military. And really, I think even the continental shelf issues are sort of based on a lack of understanding on the Law of the Sea convention, which is not surprising because it’s a very complicated treaty. So, but making its formal submission on the limits of the continental shelf, which Russia did I think back in February of this year. What they did is precisely what other countries, including Norway who was the first--which was the first country to submit its continental shelf submission to the commission a couple years ago--Russia followed the same procedure following the Law of the Sea convention, it didn’t deviate from it. In determining its outer limits of the continental shelf so far, there are no overlaps with the United States from what we know of its submission. There may be with other countries, and in fact, Norway and Russia had overlapping shelf that they resolved through their maritime boundary in the Behring Sea back in 2010. It was all done very peacefully, it took I think forty years or something, but it was resolved.

And I think to the extent of what—well, we see in the State department is to the extent there are overlapping continental shelf claims in the Arctic between other Arctic states, they will be resolved diplomatically and peacefully, and in fact we all said as much back in 2008 through something called the Ilulissat Declaration that was concluded in Greenland in the last administration. So the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf will review the data and the analysis submitted by Russia and will make recommendations on its outer limits of its continental shelf in the Arctic.  And it’s a technical process that’s usually very complicated and all that, but the coastal states are all using it to secure legal certainty in their sovereign rights and jurisdiction with respect to the continental shelf beyond two hundred miles.

And the US is not a party to the Law of the Sea, which I think everyone knows, but we’re still mapping our own continental shelf because continental shelf rights are independent of party status in the Law of the Sea convention.  But the benefit to doing the treaty is to ensure our own legal status and ensure international certainty with respect to the outer limits of our shelf. So, it’s still in our national interest of course to join the treaty, but we’re doing our continental shelf mapping separate from that, just so we know where it is and where our limits are.  So once all the shelf submissions are adjudicated by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, there actually will be very little seabed left outside of someone’s national jurisdiction. So where any continental shelf submissions overlap, as I said, we expect they’ll be worked out peacefully, and, according to USGS, nearly all of the conventional oil and gas resources in the Arctic Ocean seabed are within the two hundred nautical mile exclusive economic zone that each country is entitled to, even outside of the Law of the Sea convention. So what that means is that regardless of how long it take the Commission to adjudicate all the shelf--all the extended continental shelf submissions, the oil and gas, even right now today, is mostly under everyone’s jurisdiction. If there’s any at all outside-- not on the outside of the two hundred nautical miles--but outside the continental shelf claims by the Arctic states, it will be so little as to probably be insignificant.  So the narrative about the race for the Arctic and fears that conflict over oil and gas resources is kind of a red herring because it’s all under the five coastal states control right now as it is. So that’s why from what we see, where we sit, Russia is acting in a way that most of us would in protecting these economic interests. Of course its economy is very heavily based in oil and gas so it’s not surprising that they’re exerting military might to control and protect their offshore areas. 

So now with respect to the sort of broader soft security issues, it’s really the rapid change in the Arctic that’s driving a lot of it, so with the diminishing sea ice and more human activities naturally coming, like tourism and destination shipping, offshore gas development, offshore mining, maybe someday commercial fishing, you know, those kinds of activities, and all of them have consequences that require that the coastal states be prepared to handle the outfall. So when oil and gas prices come down again, and they will, offshore development will resume. And it’s almost inevitable that a spill will happen-- hopefully very minor, very small, but it’s fairly likely. Human beings aren’t perfect. There’s no such thing as perfection, so something probably will happen someday, and unfortunately oil spills in ice are the most difficult to clean up.  So the oil companies need to be prepared when the time comes and the Coast Guard needs to be prepared because they have to oversee when the oil companies do cleanup activities. Coast guards also need to be positioned in the Arctic to force fishing laws should large scale commercial fishing ever happen, they need coast guards again and military assets will inevitably be called upon if there’s a cruise ship disaster involving lots of people, and the need for assistance to save life and limb, so we have to be prepared for these inevitabilities. 

And we also need to have, to support that, infrastructure in the Arctic, you know, like ports and telecommunications, infrastructure, and onshore support to those kinds of things, especially ports.  So that’s why we have, in our chairmanship of the Council, which is going on right now, we, the U.S., prioritized telecom infrastructure to support the human activity that is happening now and will continue to increase, as well as the emergency response capability.  Most people I think don’t realize that there’s really not much telecommunication infrastructure-- well there is none that’s circumpolar-- the Scandinavian part of the Arctic has pretty good telecom infrastructure, but the rest of the space does not, and so we’re giving a lot of attention to that right now as we speak.  And Finland fortunately when they take the chair from us next will also prioritize telecom infrastructure, we just learned last week.

 It’s also why we’ve prioritized military exercises and Coast Guard exercises in support of search and rescue coordination and oil spill response and preparing us. We’ve held a couple of tabletop and live exercises during our chairmanship of the Council and we’ve had good participation from the other Arctic states, and everything’s actually working quite well.  So for the fact that we don’t have a lot in the way of prepositioned assets in our part of the Arctic, we’re still doing quite well in exercising these agreements and knowing where, who we need to work with and how it’s all going to work in case a real emergency arises.

And another key security issue there is border control.  And Alaska has, you know, extremely long coastline.  It’s largely unprotected, there aren’t even homeland security posts to handle, you know, rushes of non-U.S. citizens coming into the country through cruise ships that might offload in Barrow or someplace or adventurists who go up there, or you know, people who cross the narrow Behring Strait in the summertime, or in the winter going across the ice. So the border is pretty vulnerable. But fortunately, Arctic conditions are still now, and will be into the future, sufficiently harsh that the likelihood of real, widespread illegal activity like drug smuggling or human trafficking or things like that are not going to happen, I don’t think anyone thinks, anytime soon but, you know, that’s not going to be the case forever.  So we do need to, also, you know, think about border controls at least in our part of the Arctic.

So I’ll stop there but just conclude by saying that really the region right now, at this point in time, is dominated by soft security issues.  We really don’t have any reason to believe that armed conflict would arise in the Arctic any time soon. Continental shelf and maritime boundary issues will, we think-- we’re pretty confident-- be resolved peacefully through diplomatic channels.  And I think we’re in pretty good standing right now, but for the fact that we do need a lot more attention in infrastructure built, at least in our part of the Arctic, and I would argue Russia and Canada are in the same position.


John Pendleton: Hello everyone, my name is John Pendleton.  I work at GAO. If you don’t know what GAO is: we’re in the legislative branch, we’re an independent agency serving Congress, and we do analysis at the request or mandate of the Congress, and we’ve done a number of jobs working on Arctic issues. I focus on defense issues. So I’m going to talk to you today mainly through a defense lens.  I look at forestructure, readiness issues, and I’m going to try to put this in context of the way the military is thinking about Arctic issues. But I’ll also talk a little bit about some other work we’ve done including a recent report on the Coast Guard’s Arctic strategy including some –some things about their efforts to replace the icebreaker capability. I’m joined by Jenny Grover, who is one of my colleagues who led that work, in case before, during this, or after I get stuck on a technical question I can throw it over to her.  Or, after you want to talk to her, she led that work as well. So I’m going to talk about three things: DOD’s role, the capability gaps, as the Department of Defense and others see them, and how DOD’s looking at the Arctic relative to all the other things it has to do right now.

Let’s talk about the role first. DOD has a supporting role in the Arctic on almost all areas. And they participate in these various forums, councils, things, and very much like my colleague said, I believe that these organizations are sufficient to keep the threat of military conflict low in the near time.  Ok, so, I’ll pause there and make sure that you completely understand that the DOD has assessed the threat of military conflict, and we have it from several sources as low in the near term--armed conflict.

So let’s talk about the capability gaps, that said. There are several.  Communications, we’ve touched on. We’ll burn through these because I don’t want to go on and on. Maritime domain awareness, this is related to infrastructure, that’s knowing where everything is and being able to monitor to do what you need to be able to do. But the big one is the icebreaker capability everyone knows about. That’s a gap that’s been recognized. We are certainly below with one heavy icebreaker and one medium icebreaker, we are certainly below what the Coast Guard says the minimum need is, which is two.  They need more, according to their analysis, but they need two. If only in case one gets stuck, you need another one to pull it out. So if the heavy icebreaker Polar Star breaks, we’re at zero for heavy.  And we were at zero a while back when they were both offline.  The actual requirement is higher.  I’ve seen, depending on the analysis,  three-- minimum of three each-- could be more if you focus in defense readiness needs, according to Coast Guard.  But it doesn’t look like we’re going to get anywhere near that in the near term. It’s probably going to be ten years before we have a new heavy icebreaker and based on GAO’s long history in working acquisitions it typically takes longer and costs more than we think it’s going to.  The work that my colleague Jenny did looked at the possibility of a long term lease and that may not be cost-effective, and there’s some other issues with it.  The Coast Guard, we’re glad to see and somewhat urging the Congress, Coast Guard studying its options here to fill this gap, considering bringing the Polar Sea back.  I understand that could be quite expensive as well because it’s been taken care of in the meantime too much and it was cannibalized to get the Polar Star back out.  So there are a number of gaps. 

So let’s, how about, put this in perspective for DOD because this is what I really do. So my area is forestructure and readiness, my portfolio is tall, but basically I look at how DOD takes strategy and converts it into structure organization, right. How many combat units, support units they have, and then how they seek to keep that ready, the choices that they have to make, and then how they posture all that around the world.  So I trace things sort of from the strategy documents down to the actual decisions that’re being made, and there’s a lot of that going on right now.  And if I had to describe DOD’s real focus at the moment, it’s rebuilding readiness while continuing a fairly high pace of operations particularly for the Air Force and the Navy. The Army and the Marine Corps got to come home.  So they may have to go back out pretty soon, but they got to come home, and they got to rest and rebuild training and that kind of thing, but they Navy and Air Force have stayed at a very, very high tempo.

And then, there’s an issue of expanding missions.  Ok, if you had to describe, and you probably hear my southern accent, I love my sayings. If you what we’ve got is 100 pounds of strategy and fifty pounds of forestructure for about forty pounds of budget, right. We can’t possibly do all the things that we’d like to do, it’s just, I mean, I’ve seen the documents.  And it’s getting bigger, Europe is getting, I mean, it’s a new issue for us--not new but return issue, I should say. And the military is extremely concerned about it, but they’re mainly focused on how to be able to get forces and training into the continent. How could we put ground forces in place quickly, how are we going to have exercises and such in order to be able to do that.  And the DOD has asked for $3.4 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations money to deter Russia. It’s called the European Reassurance Initiative. And they intend to set the theater and be able to rapidly deploy into Europe.  We looked through that, I looked for Arctic investments; there weren’t many-- a little bit being proposed at Keflavik, but not a lot in there.

So the icebreaker issue is related to, I think, the big issue the Department faces - we made big investments in the military twenty, thirty years ago.  We bought a lot of stuff, and it’s getting old now, right? So is the case of the icebreaker--like the seventies I think they were bought, right? So the military’s having to choose between capacity in the near time versus buying more modernized capability in the future--for the future. It’s come up in the Navy’s intent to retire ships.  It came up more recently in the work I did looking at the A-10 Warthog, maybe y’all heard about it, the Air Force wanted to retire it, and a lot of people thought that was a terrible idea, and so Congress is stopping it.  So that, I think that’s the way this connects, but the thing I have to say, and it’s my conclusion, but I think it will be based on a lot of things that I’ve seen and could be borne out in documents. The Arctic’s not a super high priority for DOD relative to all the other things they have to do.  It’s not that they’re not monitoring, NORTHCOMM is actively monitoring and they have thresholds for things they’re going to look at in order to raise the priority. And DOD has a very, very robust annual planning process to reassess these things, but right now, relative to all the other things that DOD’s considering, the Arctic’s a relatively low priority.


Sherri Goodman: [Note: several seconds of introduction missing] And I served for about a decade and a half at the Center for Naval Analysis, and through a military advisory board, we organized there to look at new challenges and new threats to security, including climate change.  In our very first report back in 2007, we identified the Arctic as a region which we need to be paying more attention to, because it’s a place warming faster than anywhere else on the planet.  And I was thinking about, you know, what you all, those of you who are congressional staff here, like I was many, many years ago, you really want to make—you’re not here to get rich, otherwise you’d be doing something else—but you’re here doing what you’re doing because you want to make a difference.  And I think that this region, this area, which is of course changing more rapidly than any other on the planet and forcing us to confront, as Julie and John had eloquently stated it, new challenges in our ability to operate in a region that previously didn’t require a whole lot of presence.  

You who are working on ensuring that we have the capabilities we need to be prepared, to have a presence in this region, hopefully to keep the peace. To manage the increased human traffic that’s occurring there already with tourism, with increased opportunities for navigation, and other challenges we may face in the future with a range of other countries operating in the region, from Russia, to others who see opportunity.  Your challenge as you work in the next few years to help your bosses be able to provide the capability the U.S. needs successfully to operate in the Arctic, I think that is going to be incredibly important.   A report of the CNA Military Advisory Board in 2014 clearly identified and this is a group of senior retired generals and admirals, most of them three and four-stars who served over thirty plus years in the U.S. Military in all services—all services including the Coast Guard—clearly identified that we are not prepared for the pace of change in the Arctic and that we are not prepared today to operate in this region should there the risks and challenges we will face. 

And first among those are the challenges that Julie identified, most likely the risk of an oil spill or an accident. Now the U.S. and other Arctic countries have done a lot in recent years to help better prepare us to understand what those risks will be and to begin to have the capabilities to respond to them.  The U.S. Coast Guard Forum, the creation of oil spill response agreements, and search and rescue agreements in the Arctic Council and actually beginning to exercise to them is incredibly important and that is going to continue to be probably the most urgent need that we have because those are the risks that we face today.  Nonetheless, we can’t wait until the risks completely change.  We need to invest now in the capabilities we will need in this region in the future.  And as both Julie and John noted, we have limited communications capability, telecoms capability, very little infrastructure, and a very aging and degrading icebreaking capability. So the investments in that region are needed now.  

And I want to point your attention to a document you can get a copy of outside, a recent report that was part of the State Department, through the International Security Advisory Board, that looked at the Arctic.  And just to give you a couple of highlights from that report, and this is a group that reports to the Secretary of State, it was co-chaired, this study, by myself and a former retired four-star Air Force Officer, and at first, we said that U.S. leadership--continued U.S. leadership-- in this region is extremely important.  I praise the work that’s been done over the last several years by all branches of our government to really step up and recognize that we are indeed an Arctic nation, and to begin to provide that leadership in a central way, both through our leadership on the Arctic Council now, and through front-loading some long needed investments in icebreakers and others.  Second is presence, which John just talked about. We need presence. He’s right, I think, on the defense budget.  The challenge is there’s much more strategy and requirements and forestructure needs than there is budget to provide for it. 

And we face a number of challenges with the resurging Russia today.  We are, through the European Security Initiative, DOD is addressing those challenges through that couple billion dollars extra invested.  Now, we are, you know, I believe that today we are not facing challenges in the Arctic with Russia, but we’ve got to operate up there with our eyes wide open.  And so we need to be aware as conditions change.  Certainly our allies are watching very closely, particularly our Nordic allies are watching changes in Russian operational practices, as are we.  So we need to continue to cooperate, particularly in the areas of science, diplomacy which I’m sure many of you follow this area, you know, about the White House Science Ministerial recently, which I think was a hallmark of the new vision of engagement on science that will provide us essential strategic knowledge about the region and how it’s changing due to climate change, ocean acidification, other changes that we need to know to understand how it’s affecting indigenous communities, how it’s affecting our climate, how it’s affecting ecosystems, but also how it affects our ability to operate in the region.  And at the same time, we need to be mindful of how Russia is operating in the region.  We need to be clear to maintain our rights and our freedom of navigation, operations.

And we also find we need to have a strong interest in seeking to ensure that U.S. and Russia military activities do not increase tensions and the risk of unintended conflict.  So to that end, we know that during the Cold War period, we developed with Russia confidence-building measures that began to reduce some of the tensions of the threat of nuclear war. Now fortunately in the Arctic we’re nowhere near that level, and we hope those risks remain low.  We can use opportunities like the U.S. Coast Guard forum and other science diplomacy that’s underway to help provide the strength of those relationships that build trust, that hopefully extend beyond the Kremlin --that extend to operations in the Arctic.  We should, you can read for more detail about that in this report, we provide quite a bit of content on that.  I would also note there’s been very active Joint Ocean Commission-- I see our co-chair of the Joint Ocean Commission, his picture is up there on the wall, he’s also obviously former chairman here at this Committee-- he and I and some others actually had the opportunity to travel to Barrow last year.  In fact, I can pull out of my handbag a pen from the Mayor of Barrow.  

So I think it’s very important, as we, as many more Americans begin to work on the Arctic and understand its needs, that we understand the needs of the people the region too.  So that’s going to be incredibly important - that we recognize that, recognize how we can incorporate those needs, into developing modern infrastructure, modern science.  I’d say energy capabilities are going to be the opportunity to provide clean energy to help power the region and help reduce some of the risks there is a great opportunity, along with addressing the sources of a short-lived climate [inaudible].  While they don’t go to forestructure, these are things that are very-- that are right at the top of the list of addressing some of the challenges we face-- they’re more urgent due to the Arctic than they are elsewhere on the planet, and they also give us an opportunity to engage with many countries where we need for strategic reasons-- Russia and China and others--to be engaged.  

And finally I’ll note that the Woodrow Wilson Center where I am now-- and I see some of my Woodrow Wilson colleagues here.  Wilson Center is in the process of relaunching its polar initiative now.   It has been the go-to place for this kind of work in the past and will be in the future, a place to develop practical solutions to challenges.  And we look forward to engaging with many of you who will be in Congress on behalf of our Members working to implement those solutions. Thank you.

Jeremy Mathis: Good afternoon, everybody.  My name is Jeremy Mathis.  I’m the director of NOAA’s Arctic research program.  And I’m also one of the leaders in trying to figure out how we can do more sustained observing in the Arctic, which you heard from my three colleagues, is a place that we are severely lacking. I come at this from the perspective of somebody who started my career in the Arctic. I’ve done more than fifteen cruises in the Arctic most of them aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, so while I wasn’t in the Coast Guard, I’ve spent a whole lot of time with the Coast Guard operating in the Arctic and understanding the challenges of what it takes to cover an area that is so broad and so expansive with the resources that they’re dealing with.

So as we think about how we’re going to move forward with sustained observing in the Arctic, I think we have to do it under a different framework than we’ve taken with other parts of the ocean, and that’s because so much of the data we meet in the Arctic is immediately relevant to stakeholders - whether they be tourist companies or oil and gas exploration or the residents that are trying to deal with the rapidly changing landscape - and so, because of that, we’ve been thinking about building a sustained Arctic observing network under the framework of environmental intelligence rather than just saying we’re going to observe for observing’s sake.  We want to create an environmental intelligence cycle that starts with the stakeholders and immediately goes through four or five very critical steps of: data collection, data analysis, data synthesis, and then data delivery right back to those stakeholders.The stakeholder input can inform the next round of that environmental intelligence gathering so that we just aren’t flying blind collecting data and hoping that that data resonates with someone somewhere which is the hallmark of sort of discoverable science, which we’re very good at.  But in the Arctic, and because of the challenges we face in the Arctic in the near-term, I think we have to be very focused in our thinking and very specific in the activities that we carry out, just because of the limited resources that we’re dealing with.

And from a security standpoint, I agree that there is no really prevalent issue in the Arctic right now that’s going to require a hard security response.  But I think that doubles down on the need to do more soft security and soft data gathering efforts, and that’s largely because we do have this vulnerable population living in the Arctic that needs the data.  And we have a growing economic opportunity that’s expanding in the Arctic, but I also think we have to recognize the potential that the Arctic has to destabilize other parts of the global climate system and that’s where I think our security conversations really need to shift, and probably will shift, over the next few years as we develop a better understanding of how the warming in the Arctic is destabilizing the Arctic climate, and how those changes will propagate down into the lower forty-eight and around the northern hemisphere.  Because getting an epic snowstorm in Barrow doesn’t have a very strategic impact on the United States.  A snowstorm of the magnitude that we had in January, shutting down Washington, D.C. for five days, certainly does.  And so if we don’t understand the teleconnections to the extreme weather and the extreme climate events that we’re having here in the lower forty-eight and how those are connected to the Arctic, I think we’re leaving ourselves at a big disadvantage.  

And so Sherri mentioned the White House Arctic Science Ministerial.  I co-chaired the deliverables team with Dr. Martin Jeffries at the White House to come up with the priorities that we were going to address in the next few years with our international colleagues and also within the U.S. government, and one of the highest priorities on our list is understanding how the Arctic is going to impact global processes, particularly climate change and food security.  And those are two things that the residents of the Arctic have been grappling with for the past few years, and I think we’ve been a little slow outside of the Arctic to catch up with that.  So that to me is our biggest challenge: how do we convince the American public that the Arctic is a place where we need to make investments, that it’s not some far-off place with polar bears and glaciers that are beautiful but don’t have a real connection.  We need to let the people know that the Arctic poses some very real challenges, to not just the people living in it, but to people living around the northern hemisphere.

So we have some new opportunities to take on.  Another major deliverable from the White House Arctic Science Ministerial was renewed commitment to what’s called the Sustaining Arctic Observing Network, or SAON, which is an international body that’s sanctioned by the Arctic Council to facilitate observing and data-sharing among not just Arctic nations, but all nations working in the Arctic.  And to respond to that the United States has committed to setting up a U.S. SAON Committee.  We’ll have U.S. scientists and U.S. researchers dedicated to working on improving the collaborations and improving the product delivery from the observing assets that we already have in the Arctic, and then using those products to identify the key gaps in the observing network that we have today that aren’t letting us get the information that we need to stakeholders that need it.  So as we go forward, particularly from the standpoint of the mission-driven agencies, I’ll think you’ll hear more and more about this idea of environmental intelligence and how we’re going to work in the Arctic space using an environmental intelligence framework.  So I’ll stop there so we can save enough time for questions, but I think we’ll open it up to everybody now.

Ron O’Roure, Congressional Research Service: Hi I’m Ron O’Rourke and I work for the Congressional Research Service handling defense issues. First four really strong presentations, I think you raised a lot of points if I could add a couple of quick things. I think it’s important to note that we have a global search and rescue obligation that we’ve agreed to as a result of the search and rescue treaty back in 2011. So we have a responsibility regardless of the nationality of the nationality of the the ship or aircraft that might be in distress. so we should recognize that’s an obligation not only to ourselves but also an international responsibility. The other point you mentioned, Russia is not the only country that’s come up in people’s discussions as the country to watch in the Arctic, there are others as well, most notably China. China is interested in the Arctic, they have their own polar-capable icebreaker, the Xuelong, that they have already run right through the Arctic and they are working on a second icebreaker. People are trying to discern what China’s interests in the Arctic may be, they are almost certainly at least in part economic but to what degree they’re economic versus something else is a matter of discussion right now but China is part of the emerging security situation in the Arctic as well and I didn’t hear it mentioned so I thought I’d raise that issue.

Sherri Goodman: Let me thank Ron, if you don’t know Ron O’Rourke and you work here in Congress he is a national treasure and we’ve been the beneficiary of your analysis for many years, so thank you, thank you for what you do.

Audience member: In a lot of circles with some people I see with on Arctic issues I hear talk of, you know, the need or requirement for a Pan-Arctic security organization of some sort.  Can you comment on whether that would that be useful organization, or is there anything like that in the works?

Julie Gourley: Yeah, I can comment on that. There’s no appetite at all to bring military security issues into the Arctic council.  None of the Arctic states are interested in that, so it’s not going to happen.  There are already two circumpolar security bodies, and from where we sit in the State Department they’re absolutely sufficient.  One is the Northern ChODs, the Chiefs of Defense, which Canada created maybe about 2011.  Our chief of defense that attends that is the NORTHCOM lead or whatever his official military title is, that’s the military security forum.  The other one is one we created, which is the Arctic Security Forces Roundtable.  That was a DOD-led initiative under a pot of money that is environmentally-based, and so that group of, I think, flag officers talks about military issues timing largely with climate change, so impacts of climate and rising--the rising Arctic Ocean--on Navy facilities, for example, things like that telecommunications is another topic they talk about.  Both of them are--the ChODs haven’t met in a few years, the ASFR continues to meet, but without Russia.  But as far as we’re concerned in the State Department, and I suspect DOD as well, those two bodies are in place to talk about Arctic Security issues - the ChODs is limited to the eight arctic states; the ASFR has a couple of our other military allies in it, the U.K., France, Germany, and Netherlands and I think are the other four -  so those two forums are operating well.  As DOD wishes, they could be expanded or contracted, or you know, can meet whatever needs are out there.  But we don’t favor, and even DOD doesn’t favor, bringing military security issues into the Arctic Council.

Audience member: Regarding Arctic observations, could you expand a little bit more on the architecture of what that system might look like, I mean is it meant to be analogous to like a TAO array or an offshoot of the Arctic Op Ocean Observation system, and are you expecting that you’re going to be able to build that out under existing budget profiles?

Jeremy Mathis: So, thank you for that question.  He asked if we were going to model the Arctic observing network around the TAO array and that stands for Tropical Atmosphere Observing network that’s in the Pacific and Indian oceans that monitors El Nino and has been instrumental over the past twenty years at forecasting and predicting El Nino.  The answer is in an ideal world yes, that’s exactly how we would create an Arctic observing network.  In terms of being able to do it within existing budget realities, I think it will be a challenge, but I think the benefit we have now that we didn’t have when we were envisioning TAO twenty years ago is that we have autonomous vehicles that we can use in a number of cases that don’t require ships.  That’s what makes TAO so expensive, is the constant need to refurbish and repair and replace parts. Those systems will become the backbone of a sustained Arctic observing network while being supplemented by traditional cruise activities on vessels like the Healy and the Sikuliaq, the new vessel up in Alaska. So we are going to have to do it inside the budget reality that we’re dealing with. I don’t foresee a “Moonshot” for Arctic funding, but I think we now have the technology in place that will allow us to do sustained observing at a much more reasonable cost and I think it will let us get to the information we need. It’s not going to get us everything, but if we are strategic and really think about working through this environmental intelligence cycle that I mentioned, we can stay on priority and have as much efficiency as we possibly can and I think that will allow us be successful in the near-term in creating the observing network that we need.

Audience member: Two questions: Could you talk about the renewed interest in Keflavik and what that might mean for security issues, and Julie could you talk about scientific cooperation in the Arctic Council, why Russia’s interested, and what that might mean for soft security

Sherri Goodman: As part of the European security initiative we are— the US Department of Defense—is looking at re-stationing some forces, P-8s in that region and in Keflavik and looking at renewed cooperation with Iceland. We made unfortunate decisions some years ago now. It’s important to have that, this a good place to have presence. I think the discussions have been quite active and there are a variety of discussions that are occurring, not only that but others among the Nordic states.

Ron O’Rourke, Congressional Research Service: DOD has expressed an interest in reopening the military part of Keflavik. During the latter years of the Cold War, Keflavik was used primarily by Air Force fighters, often F-15s, to intercept Soviet bombers that were flying from bases in Northern Russia, over the Norwegian Sea, and toward the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap and the North Atlantic. It was also used by Navy P-3 land-based maritime patrol aircraft to track Soviet submarines that were similarly steaming through the Norwegian Sea, and toward the G-I-UK gap and the North Atlantic.

Based on that history, if the military part of Keflavik were reopened for use by DOD, it might be primarily to permit DOD to perform missions analogous to the Cold War-era missions described above, which could be termed North Atlantic/Norwegian Sea operations rather than Arctic operations. Thus, observers should not assume that the reopening of Keflavik would be primarily to support Arctic-focused operations. Such operations would certainly be possible, but if they were to take place, they might not account for too large a share of operations conducted from Keflavik.

Julie Gourley: And with respect to the question on the science agreement, we are about to finalize the binding Arctic agreement among the 8 Arctic states and it will be on science cooperation. Interestingly it’s the process has been co-chaired by the US and Russia. And Russia has a strong interest in seeing this agreement go forward in large part because it’s easier for Russia—and you could probably make some analogs to the United States too—but certainly Russia’s government systems it’s easier for the Russian government, all pieces of it to move when they have a legal requirement. And Russia I think now from where I sit working with them in the Council they recognize that scientific research is critical to understanding the Arctic for all the reasons all of us have talked about, and they need this agreement so they have a legal obligation to allow scientists into Russian waters. Without that it’s just too difficult with the Russian bureaucracy. Once we do this agreement, which it’s not about science itself, it’s about support to science, it’s about facilitating movement of scientists and equipment and ships and all this across all of our borders. I think it will contribute to strengthening Arctic security because, in one way to borrow a phrase from Sherri and the larger foreign policy community, it’s a bit of a confidence- building measure. And to get our scientists to work collaboratively with Russian scientists and in their waters it’s a lot to improve trust and certainly help the science community much better understand what’s going on in the Arctic. And Russia’s half the Arctic. If we can’t study that then we’re only getting half of the pie in trying to understand what’s going on in the Arctic. And it is very important to security for all the reasons we talk about the more we understand the whole Arctic and the Russian Arctic included, the more we are able to understand the outfall from the rapidly changing conditions there.

John Pendleton: And really quickly from the defense lens, what’s happening in Keflavik and all over is Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) money which is year to year money, and all things that are happening I haven’t gauged but I’m looking at the plans for this, it all depends on the OCO funding going through. These are mostly not happening in the services’ base budget, these are happening in OCO budget.  So it’s somewhat contingent that we can do the things we’re planning on in Europe.

Audience member: As private industries expand into the Arctic, what role will they play?

John Pendleton: That’s a great question because we’ve had a lot of success partnering with commercial industry to collect data so I imagine that we could continue those partnerships and look for opportunities whether it be putting instrumentation on cruise ships on a regular basis but there’s another side to that, I think there will be a demand from these industries first for more data. If you think about the insurance industry, before they send large fleets of cruise ships into the Arctic But on the other hand, I think there’s going to be some demand for better awareness of the Arctic environment and better forecasting availability. I think there will be give and take and there will be a good partnership to develop over the next few years between industry and the federal and private data collection that’s going on to see where we can share resources and share access.

Audience member: Some men in Alaska are interested in military service but don’t know where to go for more information or to enlist. What can be done? I don’t see efforts to recruit Americans in Alaska and in tribal communities.  Also where is Murkowski’s icebreaker bill in the legislative process?

Sherri Goodman: Well thank you very much for your question. I’ll address the first part of your question first and speaking in my own personal capacity, much of the research that is done in the Arctic, there is great research capability throughout our military establishment. Particularly the Navy, Naval research. And of course you know in other agencies as well but there’s been a long tradition of doing science through our military forces, and they can be civilians as well as uniformed military. And you know there’s been major efforts to retrain our veterans after the last decade of war, those two trends could merge. And the third one, this came out of the White House Arctic Science Ministerial, is the focus on citizen science, and particularly on having local indigenous people, Alaska natives, being part of the science community themselves as scientists but also being part of developing the research. So I think those trends logically could come together. I should note it was Senator Stevens who created the defense environmental research program which has funded cleanup of all military bases in the Department of Defense over many years and he created it because he was very mindful of the military activity that occurred during World War II in Alaska and he knew the equipment from military activities that need to be removed and that was the budget fuel that continues to provide for addressing some of the various programs that are available throughout the Department of Defense in Alaska that all services participate in. So I do think that’s possible, and I think there will be a focus on enabling both retired service members and the current generation to have opportunities to develop in the field of science and research in service of our nation.

Audience member: (Follow-up)What is the status of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s bill?

Ron O’Rourke, Congressional Research Service: There are multiple pieces of legislation that have as the goal one way or another acquiring an icebreaker. Murkowski’s bill is one on the Senate side, I checked a little while ago before this meeting and there has been no further action on that bill. On the house side there is H.R. 5978 which was not only introduced and not only marked up but it was passed by the House on September 26th and then referred to the Senate the next day. And that has within it as I understand it a provision that would authorize a block buy of three icebreakers so that is a very ambitious bill in terms of the authorities that it provides. And on the Senate side, the Senate version of defense appropriation bill authorizes 1 billion dollars in money for a polar icebreaker. That’s enough to pay for an entire polar icebreaker or to make a substantial down payment on a two-ship block buy. And the Senate has figured that as funding for one icebreaker in its entirety. On the House side, consistent with what the Administration has requested, there is money in Department of Homeland Security appropriation bill to make a down payment on the next icebreaker. So whether in the Department of Defense appropriations bill or the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, and in different amounts, there is money that is working its way through the FY17 appropriations process either paying partially or perhaps even entirely for a new polar icebreaker or perhaps a down payment on a two-ship block buy. And it’s really that appropriations legislation that is something that is likely to be acted on by Congress following the election in November when Congress returns for a lame duck session and finalizes action on the FY17 budget. So check on that legislation and both of those bills and see how much money ends up getting appropriated for polar icebreakers. And these things are covered in my icebreaker report.

Jeremy Mathis: I think on behalf of all of us I would like to thank you for spending the last hour with us and for all your great questions.