WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski Wednesday questioned United States Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno about the recent surge in Russian military activity in the Arctic region. In light of the regional volatility and the Pentagon’s heightened focus on the Asia-Pacific region, Murkowski questioned the reasoning behind the proposal to potentially draw down troop levels in Alaska – asking Odierno a straightforward question: “What is Mr. Putin up to here?”
General Odierno informed Senator Murkowski that the Army and the entire military are keeping a close eye on Russia’s behavior, acknowledging “We have seen increased interest by the Russians in the Arctic. They are building bases so in the future they will be able to have a presence and an impact in the Arctic – and it has clearly gotten our attention.”
When Murkowski followed that question with another asking Odierno about his strategy for the Army’s presence in Alaska, the General reiterated his view of the state’s prominent position. Alaska “plays an important role in the Pacific,” Odierno noted, but added that he needs to work more with Northern Command to determine an Arctic Action Plan for the U.S. Army.
Murkowski’s final question to General Odierno pertained to his recent trip to Alaska to evaluate the training facilities, as well as his evaluation of military equipment readiness – using the small unit support vehicle (SUS-V) as an example. Odierno remarked that Alaska’s “overall training environment is unmatched” and that the landscape provides ideal training not only for cold weather regions, but many areas of the world with mountainous and varied terrain. To her question on facilities and equipment, Odierno informed her that vehicles like SUS-Vs are a high priority for the military, but the Army is constrained from a budget perspective to make all needed upgrades in a short time frame.