Our nation’s rivals are making moves in the Arctic. According to U.S. Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, “the Arctic defines Russia.” China has a presence too, she said.
While bad for the U.S., that news could bode well for Grand Forks Air Force Base, one of the nation’s northernmost military installations.
Here’s the background: This week, Barrett announced her department’s strategic priorities for the Arctic, a region she said was once considered a “predominantly peaceful domain.” The Arctic is no longer militarily docile, evidenced by Russia’s buildup there and China’s move into the region.
And that’s where Grand Forks Air Force Base comes in. This week, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., urged Air Force leaders to consider GFAFB’s capabilities and importance to the nation’s circle of defense.
“The Air Force’s new strategy recognizes that the Arctic is critically important to our national security,” said Hoeven, who previewed the strategy in a meeting with Air Force Vice Chairman Gen. Stephen Wilson. “Between its location and significant ISR capabilities, Grand Forks Air Force Base can bolster Air Force activities throughout the region and help keep our adversaries in check. That’s the case we made to General Wilson, and it’s a priority we will continue advancing ... to ensure we secure the Arctic against growing threats to our nation.”
Touting Grand Forks Air Force Base’s potential is ever important, and Hoeven and Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., have done their part.
In his meeting last week with Gen. Wilson, Hoeven stressed that Grand Forks Air Force Base is well-positioned to fulfill critical roles within the strategy, specifically noting the base’s Global Hawk mission. He also discussed the base’s ability to house future Air Force assets during any transition to and from the Arctic.
In a statement sent to the media, Hoeven said the strategy aligns with legislation he helped secure in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which is currently under consideration in the Senate and would direct the Air Force to define how its next budget request will support activities in the Arctic. His media statement said that “when passed into law, this measure will help ensure the development of real capabilities to implement the strategy for this increasingly important region.”
In March, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said Grand Forks is “key strategic terrain” in potential military strategies of the future. He made that comment in response to questions from Cramer during a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Barrett also was there that day and she, Goldfein and Cramer engaged in a good discussion about GFAFB.
This week, the Air Force announced its Arctic priorities, including:
Increasing vigilance for both deterrence and defense in all domains.
Focusing on projecting power through a combat-credible force.
Continuing to focus on cooperation with existing allies and partners and on building new partnerships
Focusing on preparation for Arctic operations.
Even to a military layman, it’s obvious Grand Forks Air Force Base can play a role in these priorities. Our federal delegates are right to keep GFAFB top-of-mind in Washington. We urge them to continue the push.