The Coast Guard 17th District, and Sector Anchorage hosted visitors from Washington, D.C., in Anchorage, Alaska, July 18-19, 2022, to improve unity of effort in the region.
The two-day tour provided policy makers and mission managers exposure to the expanded missions, emerging threats, and key regional stakeholders throughout the Arctic domain.
Day one of the itinerary included presentations from the 17th Coast Guard District, Sector Anchorage, Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies, Arctic Domain Awareness Center, U.S. Northern Command, and Alaskan Command at Sector Anchorage on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Day two included site visits to Nome and Kotzebue, Alaska, where leaders engaged with local representatives from the Port of Nome, NANA Regional Corp., Native Village of Kotzebue, and the Maniilaq Association.
“With growing activity and increased responsibility for the Coast Guard in the region, it is imperative we work collaboratively with our local, tribal, federal, and interagency partners to meet the demand,” said Rear Adm. Nathan Moore, commander, 17th Coast Guard District. “By bringing policy makers and mission managers to Alaska, they are better able to understand the unique challenges we face here and improve the unity of effort as we respond to emerging threats in the Arctic.”
Climate change and an increase in activity in the region has resulted in an expansion of Coast Guard operations.
Sector Anchorage’s Arctic operations, managed via the Marine Safety Task Force initiative, first implemented in 2019, is the seasonal deployment of Coast Guard teams to remote areas across the state to conduct vessel and facility inspections, provide operator training, improve maritime domain awareness, provide ice rescue training to first responders, and conduct outreach for preparedness and maritime safety programs.
Through Sector Anchorage’s Arctic operations, the Coast Guard observed firsthand, impacts of climate change to the landscape of the Arctic and Western portions of Alaska. As permafrost thaws, the ground under many aging fuel facilities is becoming unstable. This could potentially leave people unable to heat their homes and schools, or fuel transportation. Potential fuel oil spills caused by aging infrastructure in rapidly changing landscapes threatens local ecosystems that sustain communities. Additionally, an increase in maritime traffic in the Arctic increases the potential for search and rescue or pollution cases.
“Collaborating on high-latitude issues and the vital partnerships that make our missions here possible, while standing above the Arctic Circle, was extremely impactful,” said Rear Adm. Michael P. Ryan, Deputy for Operations Policy and Capabilities. “It is imperative that we continue to prepare for the increased use of the Arctic, and sustain the Coast Guard legacy of executing safely in this spectacular but challenging region.”