Melting sea ice, increased shipping and shifting defense priorities are factors in deciding whether the U.S. military re-establishes permanent facilities in Alaska’s Bering Sea region, officials said.
The Native regional Aleut Corporation owns much of the land on Adak Island and is promoting a military return to the Aleutian Islands, Alaska Public Media reported Thursday.
A potential permanent base in Alaska is under consideration, but no decisions have been made, said Navy spokesperson Lt. Rochelle Rieger.
The Pentagon closed a large naval air base on Adak in the 1990s, but the Navy and Marine Corps recently held large-scale exercises there to test cold-climate capabilities.
The conditions allowed military personnel to practice maneuvers used during missions including moving large numbers of troops and supplies from a warship onto shore, said Navy Rear Admiral Cedric Pringle.
"That's exactly what we'd do with a combat situation," Pringle said. "That's exactly what we would do in a humanitarian situation, as well."
Adak is 444 miles from the nearest population hub, Unalaska, and more than 1,200 miles from Anchorage. As ice melts in the Arctic, Aleut Corp. envisions a cargo shipping hub on Adak serving vessels using the Northern Sea and Trans-Polar routes.
The Navy's return would also contribute to the revival of the small civilian community on the island, which has a population varying between 100 and 300 throughout the year, said Paul Fuhs, corporation military liaison.
“When you’re in a war you don’t get to pick your weather,” Fuhs said. “They like it, it’s a challenge. They want to challenge their troops.”