Foreign Policy Blogs

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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Mia Bennett
Mia Bennett

Mia Bennett is pursuing a PhD in Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She received her MPhil (with Distinction) in Polar Studies from the University of Cambridge's Scott Polar Research Institute, where she was a Gates Scholar.

Mia examines how climate change is reshaping the geopolitics of the Arctic through an investigation of scientific endeavors, transportation and trade networks, governance, and natural resource development. Her masters dissertation investigated the extent of an Asian-Arctic region, focusing on the activities of Korea, China, and Japan in the circumpolar north. Mia's work has appeared in ReNew Canada, Water Canada, FACTA, and Baltic Rim Economies, among other publications.

She speaks French, Swedish, and is learning Russian.

Follow her on Twitter @miageografia

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