22nd Alaska State Legislature
News from the Joint Armed Services Committee
Representative Eldon Mulder, Co-Chair
Senator Gary Wilken, Co-Chair

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Rep. Eldon Mulder
State Capitol, Room 507
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
Phone: (907) 465-2647
Fax: (907) 465-3518

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Sen. Gary_Wilken
State Capitol, Room 514
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
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Phone: (907) 465-3709
Fax: (907) 465-4714

Alaska's Role Evolves With Military's Mission
Top Brass Updates Committee on NMD, Homeland Security

Released: February 5, 2002
Contact: Representative Eldon Mulder at (907) 465-2647
Senator Gary Wilken at (907) 465-3709

(JUNEAU) Alaska's role in national defense will keep evolving as the U.S. military adjusts to meet the threat of attack from international terrorists and international ballistic missiles, top military officials told the Joint Armed Services Committee today.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Norty Schwartz, commander of the Alaskan Command, and Army Maj. Gen. Willie B. Nance Jr., program executive officer for the National Missile Defense Program, presented their update on military activity in Alaska to attentive committee members and an audience that included many other interested legislators.

"It's clear from the presentations by Gen. Schwartz and Gen. Nance that the future holds many new options for Alaska as the military reorients itself to meet the new threats to our security," said Rep. Eldon Mulder (R-Anchorage), co-chair of the committee. "Alaska has always had a lot to offer the military, as well as a lot to gain, and I think that relationship will remain strong even as we grow in new directions."

"The military is important to Alaska, not just economically, but also in terms of our mutually supportive relationship," said Sen. Gary Wilken (R-Fairbanks), co-chair of the committee. "The events of Black Tuesday made it clear once again how important this relationship is. I've got a great deal of confidence in the military's efforts to protect and enhance our security in America and Alaska, and I'm very pleased to get a first-hand update from such high-ranking officers."

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Defense Department has been working on a plan to establish a separate command that would work together with civilian authorities to defend the American homeland, including Alaska, in case of natural disaster, terrorist attack or military threat, Schwartz said.

Because nearly a quarter of the nation's domestic petroleum supply transits the Valdez Marine Terminal, the military has enhanced its ground-, sea- and air-based defenses of the facility, and will begin holding defense exercises at the pipeline terminus and surrounding area in a cooperative effort with state and private authorities to protect the state's most important national strategic facility, he said.

Schwartz praised the Legislature's efforts to develop and fund the Alaska Land Mobile radio system, which will allow communications between federal military forces, National Guard units, civilian police and emergency personnel, and municipal government authorities in case of emergency, saying the system, even in its earliest stages of deployment, has already proved its worth.

As the U.S. military continues to develop smaller, rapidly air-deployable forces, Alaska's proximity to European and Pacific Rim theaters means it will play an increasingly important strategic role in the nation's ability to project force around the world, Schwartz said. For example, Alaska's vast geographical areas and military-friendly population made it easy for the Army to decide to use the state as a training center for the Interim Brigade Combat Team, a prototype for such new military forces.

"We are living in a different world today than five months ago, and with it come new challenges," Schwartz said. "But we know we have the will and the means to meet these challenges and succeed, especially in Alaska, where our rich history, cooperation and solidarity have built a foundation of solid partnerships."

In his briefing on missile defense, Nance told the committee that by the end of 2004, the Defense Department hopes to have an operative missile defense test bed facility at Fort Greely near Fairbanks, supported by enhanced radar and other capabilities on the Aleutian island of Shemya and in Hawaii. These developments, combined with the use of the commercial space launch facility in Kodiak, will bring the state more than $200 million in construction dollars, plus hundreds of jobs in construction and operations.

By supporting development of advanced missile defense technology, Alaska will play a significant role in helping protect Americans, the nation's armed forces and our allies from a growing threat to international peace and security, he said.

In addition to committee members, other legislators attending the meeting included: Sen. John Cowdery (R-Anchorage), Sen. Rick Halford (R-Chugiak), Sen. Ben Stevens (R-Anchorage), Rep. Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski), Rep. John Coghill Jr. (R-North Pole), Rep. Richard Foster (D-Nome) and Rep. Ken Lancaster (R-Soldotna).

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