SECNAV: Arctic Presence ‘Tough’ with a Submarine
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — The Navy needs to increase its presence in the Arctic in the changing strategic situation, the secretary of the Navy said, noting that the service’s undersea presence there lacks a certain visibility.
Answering questions from the audience at a Dec. 6 symposium presented by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said that Russia is a threat in the Arctic and that the Navy needs to increase its presence in the region.
“The Arctic is an area we must focus on,” Spencer said. “We need to have a strategic Arctic port up in Alaska. We need to be doing FONOPS [Freedom of Navigation operations] in the Northern Passage. We need to be monitoring it.”
Spencer said that the challenge is mostly one of resource management, a matter of requirements exceeding the fleet’s resources, now also stretched by a renewed focus and presence needed in the North Atlantic, for which the Navy established the U.S. 2nd Fleet in August.
“We need to sell the business plan to our representatives so they fund it [Arctic operations] appropriately,” he said. “Everyone’s up there but us. We’ve been up under the water [in the Arctic] since the ’60s, but peace through presence with a submarine is a little tough.”
For decades the Navy’s operations in the Arctic have focused on submarine operations intended to deny Russia —and the Soviet Union before it — a bastion for its naval forces, particularly ballistic-missile submarines.