U.S. Department of Defense Arctic Strategy

The Department of Defense (DoD/Department) Arctic Strategy outlines the American military's role in carrying out the National Strategy for the Arctic Region, including maintaining peace and security in a region severely impacted by climate change. The Strategy explains how the DoD will promote security, stewardship, and international cooperation in the Arctic, where the intended “end-state” for this strategy is: “a secure and stable region where U.S. national interests are safeguarded, the U.S. homeland is protected, and nations work cooperatively to address challenges.”

This strategy identifies two main objectives: 

  • Ensure security, support safety, and promote defense cooperation
  • Prepare for a wide range of challenges and contingencies - operating in conjunction with other States when possible and independently if necessary - in order to maintain stability in the region.

How the Department intends to achieve these objectives as it implements the Arctic Strategy is detailed in the report. While focused on homeland security and peaceful cooperation with other Arctic nation-states, the strategies also address planning for the effects of climate change on all operations.  DoD will consider climate impacts on infrastructure, the need for disaster relief operations, and working with other nations to protect environmental integrity in the Arctic:

  • We will carefully evolve our Arctic infrastructure and capabilities at a pace consistent with changing conditions.  DoD will continually re-evaluate its needs as activities in the Arctic increase, as we balance potential Arctic investments with other national security priorities. We are beginning to think about and plan for how our Naval fleet and other capabilities and assets will need to adapt to the evolving shifts and requirements in the region.
  • We will be prepared to help respond to man-made and natural disasters in the region. Our support will extend not only to civil authorities in Alaska and around its coast, but also to cooperation with allies and partners through humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
  • We will work with other agencies and nations, as well as Alaska Natives, to protect the environmental integrity of the Arctic.  DoD will use existing capabilities to help address safety-related challenges, including international search-and-rescue missions as well as incident and disaster response. We will work closely with our Canadian partners on emergency response operations that help save lives.

Climate change is shifting the landscape in the Arctic more rapidly than anywhere else in the world. The Arctic temperature rise has many significant effects including transforming what was a frozen desert into a navigable ocean, and giving rise to an unprecedented level of human activity. According to a related study, traffic in the Northern Sea Route is expected to increase tenfold in 2015 as compared to 2014. 

Deeming the Arctic one of the planet’s last great frontiers, President Barack Obama commissioned a policy paper in May 2013 that defined the nation’s interests and objectives in the region - The National Arctic Strategy. This was followed by the Department of Defense strategy in November 2013 to outline its role in the Arctic while fulfilling the overall national strategy.

Publication Date: November 22, 2013

Related Organizations:

  • U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)

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  • Plans (other)

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