The United States is ‘looking north’ too

The US Navy published a detailed report in October 2009 entitled The US Navy Arctic Roadmap.  This document is sponsored by an organization know as Task Force Climate Change which is headed by the Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy, Rear-Admiral David Titley. You can read the report here.

The Arctic Roadmap is the first product of “Task Force Climate Change.” This organization was established by the Chief of Naval Operations on 15 May 2009.  The task force has a four-year mandate and is tasked to “make recommendations to Navy leadership regarding policy, strategy, force structure, and investments relating to the changing Arctic specifically and global climate change in general.”

The Arctic Roadmap lays out numerous Action Items, describes Desired Effects and Objectives for each item, assigns Lead and Support Authorities for each item, and identifies Suspense Dates (by Year and Quarter) for reporting.  The roadmap also proposes the framework of a Strategic Communications and Outreach plan.  The Canadian navy is listed first on a list of “international offices, agencies, governments, and militaries involved in the Arctic” that the USN has identified for “establishing and maintaining consistent outreach with, and providing information.”  The list includes but is not limited to:

o                   Canadian Navy
o                   Royal Navy
o                   UK Hydrographic Office
o                   Russian Navy
o                   Royal Danish Navy
o                   Royal Norwegian Navy
o                   International Ice Patrol
o                   Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF)
o                   Icelandic Coast Guard
o                   Canadian Coast Guard
o                   Russian Border Guard

The Arctic Roadmap report is an example of high quality USN staff work.  Beyond that, it is impressive that the USN has assigned such high priority to arctic research and exploration that a flag-rank officer that has acquired both doctoral and master’s degrees at navy expense has been assigned to head the organization and lead the task force.  Will Admiral Titley find the right contact within the Canadian navy and will that person have the education and experience to liaise effectively with him?  The Canadian navy does not have an oceanography expert even close to equivalent rank (probably only a commander). If, as the Prime Minister has said on numerous occasions, the “strategic future of Canada” is inextricably linked with the Arctic, should the Canadian navy be placing more emphasis on arctic knowledge and experience and should its organization be changed to place more emphasis on such things as marine science, and less on tactical proficiencies?

A related subject: is reporting that Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has introduced the “Arctic Deep Water Sea Port Act” (S. 2849).  Her bill will require a study and report on the feasibility and potential of establishing a deep water sea port in the Arctic to protect and advance strategic interests of the United States.  The bill recognizes that arctic conditions are evolving and that the region is becoming more important to the United States. About the bill, Senator Murkowski said:

"The United States needs to be able to guard its territorial claims and its economic interests in the Arctic, especially as a decrease in seasonal ice is leading to increased marine activity in the region.  With the high potential for further industrial and commercial activity in the Arctic region, the United States must ensure that it is prepared to protect human life as well as the vulnerable Arctic environment."