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Arctic Security Dialogues II | Toward a US Army Arctic Strategy

“Toward a US Army Arctic Strategy” is the second program in the Arctic Security Dialogues, following the inaugural discussion on the US Air Force Arctic Strategy. The US Army has yet to publish an Arctic Strategy, though one is currently in development. In this expert conversation on the developing challenges, emerging opportunities, strategic priorities and essential components that could influence an upcoming US Army Arctic Strategy, a panel of retired US Army General Officers and security experts contributed perspectives and suggestions on policy, planning and/or operations for drafters to consider.

Date & Time

Dec. 11, 2020
4:00pm – 6:00pm ET


Speaker Quotes

Colonel J.P. Clark

“The second part of the strategy is, in some ways, a concept for employment. Once again, we do not want to overstep our bounds as a military department. I do quite a bit of talking — certainly, on a weekly, sometimes on a daily basis with the G5s for the US Army Pacific, Europe, and Army North, which has the homeland defense mission and making sure that we understand [how we can be] producing forces that are able to operate across those seams.”

“Obviously as we talk about great power competition in relation to the 2018 National defense Strategy and whatever might come next out of the next administration, we anticipate that there will probably be, you know, a similar recognition that we are dealing with adversaries who can pose a threat to the homeland, which is something we haven’t had to deal with for quite a while. And so, there’s the extra threat, and then also as both speakers who had opened this up mentioned, the changing Arctic offers new paths for enemies to attack us, potentially.”

Major General Peter Andrysiak

“We’ve got the support of the Army leadership as we go forward. As mentioned by J.P. [Clark], they want to roll [the US Army Arctic Strategy] by February, but I will tell you, by February, but I will tell you, by February, we’re already going to be training. We’re already doing it now. We’ve already changed how US Army Alaska focuses its training because we’ve gotten enough guidance to move on.”

“In that battle rhythm, what we call the annual battle rhythm, is extremely important to set in place in Alaska. If you want to build the readiness [in Alaska], you’ve got to go back to this annual cycle of how we want to actually build the readiness and training in the coldest parts of the year.”

“We’ve made changes in the clothing that we wear … but the larger organizational equipment has not evolved or adapted over time. And when I explained that to the chief of staff in the summer — largely what we do to our equipment is the same thing that you get added to a car at a local dealership if you go buy it. That’s not Arctic-adapted. And it’s definitely not Arctic design.”

“We’ve got to deepen that relationship with [Alaska Native communities] ... to understand the culture where we live, that Alaska experience can only be lived through the Alaska Natives. There is so much that they know that we need to be able to partner with them and understand better as we build up the capabilities.”

Lieutenant General (Ret.) Mike Shields

“Cold weather expertise is a requirement. It’s not a luxury. ... And in my opinion, if you can operate in the Arctic, you can operate anywhere, and our forces have proven that in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

From a manning perspective, it’s important to build an Arctic ethos, a culture of cold-weather excellence. To develop an Arctic ethos, that mindset culture, you need to live out in the environment to hold onto the belief that you can survive and fight in that environment and win. The secondary effects of the arctic ethos is the ability to exercise discipline in all situations as well as the requisite mental and physical toughness to operate there.”

“We need to expand partnerships and interoperability with our regional mission partners … build collective expertise by, with, through our partners and take advantage of the joint and combined training offered by exercises such as Arctic Edge, Northern Edge … Arctic Warriors, Red Flag and so forth to build Arctic operational capability.”

Lieutenant General William B. Garrett III

“We don’t get to pick our context. We have to deal with the world as it is. And that means preparing for great power competition with China, and to a lesser extent, with Russia. The Arctic region is an extension of that competition, even as the security environment in the Arctic is being fundamentally altered by the impact of climate change. Point is, you don’t get to pick your context. That context is now unequivocally given to us, and we have to think and act accordingly.”

“Given the Arctic’s vast distances and challenges to land operations, the ability to project power forward is primarily going to be air and naval power together with space and cyber. And, for the first time in decades, land will not be the most critical domain of warfare, and it may not even be the most decisive one. As a force organized, trained, and equipped for land warfare, the Army must adapt and change to be relevant in the Arctic.”

“First, is the idea of “radical collaboration.” As the Army develops its Arctic strategy, the best approach might be to adopt the simple mantra of, “Be a good teammate.” That’s a powerful antidote to inter-service rivalry, it rejects a zero-sum attitude, and it inspires the necessary collaboration and service to the mission. It also emphasizes the importance of strengthening alliances to face challenges from China and Russia — and to deal with transnational threats like climate change.”

Major General Randolph J. Staudenraus

“There’s the National Guard Arctic Interest Council, and this is made up of 15 states from the Northern states … They go out and they’re with 22 different partner nations that are non-Arctic members. And so when they go out and they talk to their relationships there, they’re talking to these other countries about the US and what their thoughts are on the Arctic domain and what that means for the rules and the governance and the Arctic.”

“We’re not using what we have, so we haven’t defined the problem. This is again something that the state militia is doing. Underneath the National Guard with [Brigadier General Torrence Sахе] — he’s trying to get the local natives back on board with being part of the local militia and then using that strength to go, ‘What is the problem? How do we get there’”

Brigadier General J.B.P. Carpentier

“As we develop strategies and things that we need to do for the Arctic, we have to look at the authorities that we have and really think of the problem set in a whole of government, whole of nation, whole of society standpoint. So that’s been mentioned prior, but I think it’s a building block that we have to look at in everything that we do.”

“There [were] roads and airports in Afghanistan and supply depots that we could get in there with. The North American Arctic is not that well-equipped. So, the experiences that we’ve had elsewhere don’t translate very well to the challenges that we have in the North American Arctic.”

“From a Canadian Forces perspective and a Joint Task Force North perspective, the real advantage that we have here is that I’m strictly force employment. I don’t have any assigned forces. So everything that we do is based on partnerships.”

Jim Townsend

“There is a lot that we can gain that the Army can gain from talking to our allies and partners from the Nordic countries — Denmark, of course, Norway, Sweden, Finland. … They’re going through a lot of strengthening and building their capabilities as well.”

“Resilience is a big buzzword in NATO and in Europe as we talk about dealing with the Russians. Trying to improve allied resilience to a lot of the gray-area combat we’re underway right now in Europe as we deal with the Russians. And resilience is kind of the tag word that we sweep everything under — how resilient is society to deal with what the Russians are doing as well as outside shock? Certainly, in Alaska, there’s a resilience mission as well. … But if you look at the Army and the Army mission in Alaska, I think part of it is going to have to be resilience: aiding the Alaskan society to become more resilient to a gray-area conflict.”

Iris Ferguson

“Back in 2017, we put together a delegation of Air force leadership to visit Alaska, Canada, and Greenland to really walk the ground, to understand all that we were doing in the region and look at what the changes that were taking place on the ground. As a part of that, we actually spent a lot of time looking at a lot of Army capabilities that we were looking to leverage as part of [the Air Force Arctic] strategy.”

“There’s nothing like seeing a four star general trying — underscore trying — to turn on a flashlight with a huge glove in this -50 [degree] chamber for him to recognize that this is not an insignificant challenge — that there are real necessities to preparation for being able to operate in the region.”

“If I could highlight three things: communications, to build a common operating picture, and joint training. I think, if we can work together on those three areas at least, we’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of where we were before these strategies came out.”

“I’m going to look to space assets. We’re seeing a real convergence of incredible technology that is coming online from the private sector, largely alongside it at drop-in price. Where things were once inconceivable, we’re actually seeing immense opportunities, and communications in particular — looking at potential Low Earth Orbiting satellites and being able to partner with the private sector … maybe they would actually fund the launch in the actual systems and we would lease from them. That’s a revolutionary idea for the Department of Defense to lease capabilities as opposed to own and operate.”

Sherri Goodman

“When we talk about the destabilizing forces in the Arctic, it’s both the fact that we have increased Russian, Chinese, and other presence and competition throughout the region, but it’s also the destabilizing changes in the climate. And that I think is important. We know that. But I think it’s going to become more important.”

“We have yet to learn, I think, the full extent of infrastructure damage suffered in Russia throughout this summer of temperatures up to a hundred degrees. That’s going to have consequences across the whole of the Arctic. And as we think about how to increase and improve our capabilities to operate in the Arctic, we’re going to have to build in that all the conditions are less predictable than they’ve been in the past.”

“As we look at the innovation, I love the emphasis on being able to allow the units to innovate down at the tactical edge because you don’t always know, in Washington, what’s going on … that innovation capability at the unit level and at the soldier level I think is going to be incredibly important. And I hope it will be championed.”

“A scene setting — We’ve been able to identify some things that we are convinced that the Army absolutely must do. One example, pulling from the first bin of “Building Capabilities” is — we just simply have to rebuild domain expertise through training. Both at the individual level, but also at the collective level. … We know that we have to be able to train units to operate units to operate in this environment at echelon, not simply train individuals to survive.”


Hosted By

Polar Institute

Since its inception in 2017, the Polar Institute has become a premier forum for discussion and policy analysis of Arctic and Antarctic issues, and is known in Washington, DC and elsewhere as the Arctic Public Square. The Institute holistically studies the central policy issues facing these regions—with an emphasis on Arctic governance, climate change, economic development, scientific research, security, and Indigenous communities—and communicates trusted analysis to policymakers and other stakeholders.  Read more

Kennan Institute

The Kennan Institute is the premier US center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the surrounding region though research and exchange.  Read more

Kissinger Institute on China and the United States

The Kissinger Institute works to ensure that China policy serves American long-term interests and is founded in understanding of historical and cultural factors in bilateral relations and in accurate assessment of the aspirations of China’s government and people.  Read more

Canada Institute

The mission of the Wilson Center's Canada Institute is to raise the level of knowledge of Canada in the United States, particularly within the Washington, DC policy community.  Research projects, initiatives, podcasts, and publications cover contemporary Canada, US-Canadian relations, North American political economy, and Canada's global role as it intersects with US national interests.  Read more

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