The House on Friday approved its version of a defense policy bill that like the Senate legislation would require the Defense Department to study and report to Congress the establishment of at least one strategic port in the Arctic but unlike the Senate its measure doesn’t direct the creation of such a port.
The provision in the House’s fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) related to the Arctic port says the Secretary of Defense “may designate one or more ports as Department of Defense Strategic Arctic Ports” whereas the Senate bill says the Secretary of Defense “shall designate one or more” Arctic ports.
The House provision was put forth as an amendment by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) that passed by voice vote last Thursday night as part of a bloc of various amendments. The Senate mandate for at least one Arctic port was led by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).
Both amendments on the Arctic port highlight that “although much progress has been made to increase awareness of Arctic issues and to promote increased presence in the region, additional measures, including the designation of one or more strategic Arctic ports, are needed to show the commitment of the United States to this emerging strategic chokepoint of future great power competition.”
Differences in the House and Senate NDAA bills must still be resolved in conference between the respective Armed Services Committees.
Both bills require DoD within 180 days of enactment of the NDAA to provide Congress with an evaluation on one or more suitable sites for strategic ports in the Arctic. The port must be able to accommodate at least one of each type of specified Navy and Coast Guard vessels, including a DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, a Coast Guard National Security Cutter, and a Coast Guard heavy polar icebreaker.
The study must also include the need for related equipment storage and civil infrastructure, aerospace and maritime surface and subsurface warning, maritime domain awareness, homeland defense, disaster relief, and meteorological measurements and forecast.
Young’s amendment requires DoD to report on the potential establishment of an Arctic port within 90 days of the study being submitted.
The House also approved an amendment offered by Young requiring DoD to contract with a federally-funded research and development center to independently report on Chinese direct investment in countries in the Arctic region, “with a focus on the effects of such foreign direct investment on United States national security and near-peer competition in the Arctic region.”
Another amendment by Young approved by the House directs the Secretary of the Army to assess cold weather training requirements and develop a plan to increase and expand cold weather training opportunities.