The Navy and the Arctic

The Boston Globe has an editorial by Derrick Z. Jackson highlighting the growing role of the U.S. Navy in the Arctic, entitled, “As the world’s ice melts, the Navy’s role grows.” Admiral Gary Roughead sat down with the op-ed board of the newspaper, commenting on issues such as overfishing and melting sea ice – both of which, he believes, are increasing the importance of the Navy. He favors U.S. ratification of the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty “so we have a seat at the table. The Arctic makes it imperative.’’  Roughead further explained that by signing the treaty, the U.S. would be able to “expand its sovereign rights to the increasingly accessible outer continental shelf areas of the resource-rich environment of the Arctic.’’

In the past, the Navy had icebreakers, but now only the Coast Guard operates them while the Navy uses submarines in the Arctic. Yet the Navy is charting out its future in the world’s northermost region, as evidenced by the “Arctic Roadmap” issued by the Navy’s Task Force Climate Change in November 2009.

Rear Admiral Dave Titley said in a press release,

“As the Arctic Ocean continues to show a long-term trend in sea ice decline, the potential for increased human access and activity in the region will some day likely require a greater Navy presence there to protect national interests.”

Indeed, as part of that roadmap, the Navy will be evaluating its capabilities in the Arctic in the coming years. It will also look at the continuation of exercises in the Arctic and joint operations with the Coast Guard. One of the stated objectives of the roadmap is to “provide weapon, platform, sensor and C4ISR* capability, and installations and facilities required to implement Navy, DOD, and National policy regarding the changing Arctic region.”

C4ISR* = Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance

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