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Senator Dan Sullivan discusses new military construction projects in Alaska

 Senator Dan Sullivan (R – Alaska) was in Fairbanks on Friday attending to personal and professional matters. (Ramzi Abou Ghalioum/KTVF)
Senator Dan Sullivan (R – Alaska) was in Fairbanks on Friday attending to personal and professional matters. (Ramzi Abou Ghalioum/KTVF) (KTVF)
Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 7:00 PM AKDT
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Senator Dan Sullivan (R – Alaska) was in Fairbanks on Friday attending to personal and professional matters.

We spoke to the senator about recent developments in military spending for fiscal year 2021 pertaining to Alaska, including $193 million secured for construction spending in the state.

According to a press release from Sullivan’s office, the money, which comes out of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act, is broken down in the following ways:

• Fort Greely Communications Center: Authorizes the construction of a $48 million Communications Center in support of the critical missile defense assets at Fort Greely to house mission communication equipment

• Fort Wainwright Unaccompanied Enlisted Personnel Housing: Authorizes a $59 million Army unfunded priority for a dorm-style barracks at Fort Wainwright

• Fort Wainwright Child Development Center: Authorizes a $55 million Army unfunded priority for a Child Development Center at Fort Wainwright

• COBRA DANE Funding: This provision increases Space Force procurement by $12.5 million, and $18.5 million in research and development to extend the service life of the Cobra Dane missile defense radar on Shemya Island.

The money is broken down into two main categories: quality of life improvements for military personnel stationed in the state, and strategic infrastructure improvements.

“This stems from an issue that I think we all care deeply about,” the senator says regarding quality of life at Alaskan bases. “But we have seen over the last 18 months a rash of suicides at the base here.”

“The Army, to its credit, at our urging is looking at a number of things they can do to bolster the quality of life for the military here in the interior,” he adds.

The addition of dorm-style barracks and a child development center at Ft. Wainwright is another step in a long line of quality of life improvements the military is attempting to make to curb the high rate of suicides in the state. The military has recently also approved one-time cash payouts to personnel who are stationed in Alaska.

The bill also includes a provision for a study examining military suicides.

When it comes to strategic improvements, Sullivan says that these are intended to poise Alaska as “the preeminent place for our nation, in some ways for the world on Arctic security, on Asia Pacific security.”

Finally, the bill also includes a provision for a “Ted Stevens Arctic Center for Security Studies”.

"You would have the smartest people in the world, with DOD funding, located here in Alaska on strategic, economic, military, security studies relating to the Arctic," Sullivan says about the center.

The intention is to incorporate it as an arm of the University of Alaska system. “Obviously, UAF would be a prime candidate for this,” he says, adding that professors would work with DOD professionals and Arctic security experts.

Sullivan says he has previously spoken to the Board of Regents about this center, which he says mirrors the format for the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii or the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Bavaria.

Finally, the bill also makes a provision for a study which will examine recruitment efforts in Alaskan villages. Sullivan says that the provision for this study speaks to a broader issue of racism in America, saying that although a large percentage of lower-ranking personnel are Alaska Natives and African Americans, they are not represented similarly in military leadership positions.

“We have to acknowledge it, we have to work towards a more perfect union,” Sullivan says. “We’re not there yet, of course, and unfortunately racism still exists in our state, in our country.”

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