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News | April 23, 2014

Arctic Collaborative Workshop Facilitates New Partnerships

By David Martin Alaskan Command, Joint Task Force-Alaska

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – The Arctic Collaborative Workshop, drawing military and civilian Arctic experts from Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, and the United States wrapped up on April 17, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. 

The goal of the workshop was to increase the understanding and awareness of the Arctic and its existing and potential partnerships, the changing environmental conditions and limitations on response operations and logistics, and the consequences of current and future capability gaps. Additionally, the workshop was designed to explore prospective solutions to mitigate risk through collaboration, technology, and innovation. 

The North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command sponsored the workshop, co-hosted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks with partner organization Joint Task Force Alaska.  University hosting allowed participants access to a wealth of local scientific and traditional knowledge and perspectives on the Arctic.

Keynote speakers at the event included Alaska Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell and NORAD Deputy Commander Lieutenant General Alain J. Parent.  Lt Governor Treadwell discussed five reasons why Arctic national security should be a national priority:  energy development and security, shipping opportunities and safety, assessing and mitigating changes in climate and fisheries, attaining land access and territorial claims, and promoting the Arctic’s strategic position for military cooperation.  Major policy imperatives for Alaska include “filling the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, maintaining food security, promoting job growth, attracting investment, and developing infrastructure,” said Treadwell. For the nation, Treadwell said safety at sea, international cooperation, and taking advantage of economic opportunities should be prioritized. 

Gen. Parent discussed Canada’s efforts to place more emphasis on the Arctic, including opening of their new Army Training Center in Resolute Bay, establishment of a deep-water port on Baffin Island, the building of new Arctic patrol ships, design of a new Polar Class icebreaker, and an increased emphasis on building systems to improve Arctic domain awareness. 

United States’ Arctic initiatives focus on three lines of effort from the U.S. Arctic Strategy:  advancing U.S. security interests, pursuing responsible Arctic region stewardship, and strengthening international cooperation.  Gen. Parent discussed the difficulty of tackling big issues in the Arctic, but urged workshop participants to start slowly moving the yardsticks down the field, and:  “What matters is that [the yardsticks] are moving and that we continually make progress in this great and exciting domain we call the Arctic,” said Parent. He also mentioned that the types of challenges we need to solve in the Arctic go well beyond the ability of a single country or industry to solve; intelligent partnering is the key to success.

Over the course of the three-day event, U.S. and foreign participants from industry and the military, as well as federal, state and borough government agencies shared organizational information and their Arctic capabilities.

The Arctic Collaborative Workshop affirmed to participants that living and operating in the Arctic presents unique challenges that require not just a whole-of-government, but also a whole-of-enterprise approach and international cooperation.  Effective response in the Arctic is largely a “come as you are” affair.  The best Arctic organizations seek to maintain close ties and exercise response processes regularly as few assets or support will be available in a timely manner from outside the region.  The bottom line is… partnerships are the key to success in the Arctic, and events like the Arctic Collaborative Workshop are invaluable to forging those relationships.