Navy Must Be ‘Agile’ but ‘Sustainable’ in the Arctic

WASHINGTON — Sustainability is the key issue for U.S. naval operations in the Arctic, a Navy official said.

“The Navy has to be agile [in its Arctic operations],” Jeffrey Barker, a deputy branch head for Policy and Posture in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, said Dec. 4 at a forum, The Arctic and National Security, sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank. “But we’re not going to do anything unless it is sustainable.

“I see this as a balance of space, time, and force,” Barker said.

Barker said the Navy would respond to any combatant commander requirements to operate more often in the Arctic. He stressed that the Navy would work closely with the Coast Guard, Air Force and international partners to accomplish assigned missions in the region.

“We can’t do it all our ourselves,” he said.

Barker cited a recent Government Accountability Office report that said that, in his words, “what we are doing aligns with the National Security Strategy. We think we are positioned very, very well.”

Although the recent focus on increasing Arctic operations has been brought about by the changes in the ice coverage of the Arctic Ocean, the Navy has long been a regular operator in the region.

“Most of the missions we do [in the Arctic] we can accomplish with submarines,” he said. “The submarines are up there to deny bastions to the Russians.