Indian Country Today
Even members of Congress, and the state’s highest elected official get only 15 minutes to speak at the Alaska Federation of Natives’ annual convention. So it’s significant that high-level military leaders got 45 minutes to speak there last week.
Their message? The Arctic is heating up militarily due to environmental changes, and Alaska Natives are vital to keeping it secure.
Lt. Gen. David Krumm is commander, Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Region, Alaskan Command and 11th Air Force. He was later honored with a naming ceremony bestowing Iñupiaq and Tlingit names.
Krumm said with a rapidly warming Arctic and technological advances, the Arctic is becoming more accessible.
“With less sea ice and the warming temperatures, we're seeing that nations are able to bring more maritime vessels. They're able to do more exploration,” said Krumm.
A new route from Asia to Europe using what’s called the Northern Sea Route across the top of North America would save Chinese shippers two weeks of travel time.
The melting sea ice also creates easier access to natural resources.
“The U.S. Geological Survey has assessed that about 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and about 30 percent of the undiscovered gas lies in the Arctic and that's in various stages,” said Krumm. “Plans are also in the works to mine rare earth materials, minerals, particularly in Greenland.”
Krumm said nations may choose not to extract those resources “but that's not a universal consensus, particularly when it comes to Russia. Over 20 percent of their GDP right now comes from natural resources above the Arctic Circle in their area. So we know that the Arctic is important to them. And they're looking for ways to secure that.”
Russia has invested heavily in military ports and facilities along its northern coast. Earlier this year it announced successful tests of another of its hypersonic cruise missiles, which can travel at 5 times the speed of sound and cover vast distances while maneuvering to evade interception. It has dozens of ice breakers to the U.S.’s operational one icebreaker.
“We're gonna need to find a way to monitor those individuals in nation states that choose to come into the Arctic to make sure that they are abiding by rules and norms. Countries like Russia and China have demonstrated in the recent past that they don't adhere to international rules and norms,” Krumm said.
“So if you remember Crimea, where Russia basically invaded and took over, if you look at the situation in Ukraine, what China has done in the east and south China sea, that all points to nations that don't adhere to the rules of law and international norms,” he said.
The military’s objective is to have a free, open, prosperous, and safe and protected Arctic, Krumm said. And that will take more money.
“As I spoke last year to Congress, Sen. (Dan) Sullivan (Republican, Alaska) asked me point blankly ‘are we doing what we need to resource things in the Arctic, in Alaska?’ My answer was ‘Hey, you have to be on the field if you wanna play the game. And we're still in the locker room developing a game plan.’”
Krumm said he’s hoping federal budgets will include significant new investments in the Arctic, for internet capability, for instance, which he said would help Alaskans and Alaskan businesses.
“We have to have infrastructure to support infrastructure, not only on land, as I talked about with regards to airports, but we also have to have seaports to include fuel north of Dutch Harbor, Alaska for instance, to be competitive with both China and Russia,” Krumm said.
“Especially, I can't emphasize the strategic importance of the position of Alaska, whether it be power projection to the Pacific, power projection to Europe, but most importantly, defending our Homeland,” Krumm said.
“It's an area that we must maintain, that we can't afford to lose. While it's important for power projection and defensive capabilities, I would also tell you that it's an attack vector potentially on our Homeland from peer competitors in a crisis or a conflict. And so we must be cognizant of that fact.”
He concluded saying the military’s relationship with Alaska Native communities is one of its most important. “We need to work together. We need to be able to learn from you.
“We need to be able to understand how to work and thrive in this environment,” Krumm said. “And we need to make sure that we do that so that it doesn't impede upon the chosen way of living and the chosen way of that as you gather your own resources. So this needs to be a partnership. My commitment to do that will be a focus of my command while I'm here,” Krumm said.
That evening, AFN honored Krumm for his service and engagement with the Alaska Native community. Senior Airman Emily Farnsworth reported in the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service that Krumm was given the Iñupiaq name Siulliuqti, meaning leader. Gail Schubert, Bering Straits Native Corporation president and CEO, said the name was chosen by her 95-year-old mother Betty Anagick, the oldest elder living in the village of Unalakleet.
“She chose the word Siulliuqti, which means leader in our dialect, [because of Krumm’s] leadership in Alaska and the Arctic to ensure our shores, waters, airspace and country are kept safe from incursions by non-Arctic countries,” Schubert said.
He was given the Tlingit name Kitch yaa.
“Kitch yaa means under Raven’s wing,” said Joey Zuboff, a Deisheetaan (Beaver) clan leader of the Raven moiety. “This is what we are going to do; we are going to put [Krumm] under our wing. We don’t just adopt people for no reason. We know that Lt Gen Krumm will do what he can for the people of Alaska.”
Major General (Ret.) Randy “Church” Kee, is a U.S. Air Force senior advisor for Arctic Security Affairs at the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies. The center is directing more attention to the Arctic and is oriented among three pillars. “No. 1 of course is research and analysis. No. 2 is executive education. No. 3 is outreach and engagement,” Kee said.
Our stories are worth telling. Our stories are worth sharing. Our stories are worth your support. Contribute $5 or $10 contribution today to help Indian Country Today carry out its critical mission. Sign up for ICT’s free newsletter.