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US Navy Arctic Strategy: A Blue Arctic

The US Navy also recently published an updated Arctic strategy to lay out the blueprint for the branch's operations in this increasingly dynamic region. The Navy considers the Arctic changed from "white" to "blue," emblematic of the melting sea ice. Read the full strategy here:


The United States is a maritime nation. We are also an Arctic nation. Our security, prosperity, and vital interests in the Arctic are increasingly linked to those of other nations in and out of the region.

America’s interests are best served by fostering compliance with existing rules to assure a peaceful and prosperous Arctic Region – stretching from Maine in the North Atlantic across the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait and Alaska in the North Pacific to the southern tip of the Aleutian Island chain. In the decades ahead, rapidly melting sea ice and increasingly navigable Arctic waters – a Blue Arctic – will create new challenges and opportunities off our northern shores. Without sustained American naval presence and partnerships in the Arctic Region, peace and prosperity will be increas- ingly challenged by Russia and China, whose interests and values differ dramatically from ours. Competing views of how to control increasingly accessible marine resources and sea routes, unintended military accidents and conflict, and spill-over of major power competition in the Arctic all have the potential to threaten U.S. interests and prosperity. These challenges are compounded by increasing risk of environmental degradation and disasters, accidents at sea, and dis- placement of people and wildlife as human activity increases in the region.

Despite containing the world’s smallest ocean, the Arctic Region has the potential to connect nearly 75% of the world’s population—as melting sea ice increases access to shorter maritime trade routes linking Asia, Europe and North America. Today, 90% of all trade travels across the world’s oceans – with seaborne trade expected to double over the next 15 years. Arctic waters will see increasing transits of cargo and natural resources to global markets along with military activity, regional mar- itime traffic, tourism, and legitimate/illegitimate global fishing fleets. The Beaufort, Chukchi, and Bering Seas are experiencing rapid sea ice loss, enabling greater access to waters off America’s Alaskan shores. An opening Arctic brings the United States closer to our northern neighbors to provide mutual assistance in times of need, while also enabling like- minded nations to defend the homeland, deter aggression and coercion, and protect Sea Lines of Communication.

The regional challenges facing the United States in the Arctic Region – from the changing physical environment and greater access to sea routes and resources, to increased military activity by China and Russia, includ- ing attempts to alter Arctic governance – have grown more complex and more urgent, while the rapid advance of authoritarianism and revisionists approaches in the maritime environment undermine our ability to collec- tively meet them. Peace and prosperity in the Arctic requires enhanced naval presence and partnerships.


Regional Blueprint

An increasingly accessible and navigable Arctic operating environ- ment will place new demands on our naval forces. The scope and pace of our competitors’ and adversaries’ ambitions and capabilities in a Blue Arctic requires new ways of applying naval power. The Arctic Region is a vast maneuver space and this regional blueprint recognizes the rising importance of enhanced naval presence and partnerships in the region. Flexible, scalable, and agile naval forces provide an inherent advantage in a Blue Arctic, but it is necessary to enhance our presence, cooperation, and capabilities. Concurrently, we will find new ways to integrate and apply naval power with existing forces while investing in new capabilities that may not be fully realized and integrated into the force for at least a decade.

We will achieve our enduring national security interests in a Blue Arctic by pursuing these objectives:

  • Maintain Enhanced Presence;

  • Strengthen Cooperative Partnerships;

  • Build a More Capable Arctic Naval Force.

Maintain Enhanced Presence This regional blueprint underscores the use of naval power to influence actions and events at sea and ashore. Left uncontested, incremental gains from increased aggression and malign activities could result in a fait accompli, with long-term strategic benefits for our competitors. The U.S. Navy currently has routine presence on, under, and above Arctic waters, and we will continue to train and exercise to maximize this capability. The Department will maintain an enhanced presence in the Arctic Region by regionally posturing our forces, conducting exercises and operations, integrating Navy-Marine Corps-Coast Guard capabilities, and synchronizing our Fleets. Regionally postured naval forces. Our security and prosperity are inex- tricably linked with other nations. Without adequate defensive posturing, competition over Arctic resources and sea routes could present a direct threat to U.S. sovereignty. The Department will be postured to deter aggressive and malign behavior, keep the seas free and open, and assure allies and partners of our long-term commitment to preserving peace and advancing shared interests.

In the decades ahead, the Department will continue to pro- vide the right levels and types of presence overseas. We will con- tinue to assess our force posture requirements in Alaska to meet the unique and evolving require- ments of the Arctic Region, often in conjunction with the joint force, U.S. interagency, allies, and partners – including NATO. The Department will take a more cooperative and tailored approach through a mix of permanently stationed forces, rotational forces, temporary forces, pre-positioned equipment and stocks, and basing infra- structure across the region.

Credible naval forces ensure the ability to deter competitors and rapidly respond to crises in the region, while allowing naval forces to project power to gain an advantage in other theaters. In addition to our own forces, effective Theater Security Cooperation activities are a form of extended deterrence, creating security and reducing conditions for con- flict. To this end, the Navy-Marine Corps team will conduct exercises and operations, key engagements, and port calls with allies and partners across the Arctic Region. Our defense posture must be regularly and rigorously assessed to adapt to a Blue Arctic.


Strengthen Cooperative Partnerships Mutually beneficial alliances and partnerships, are foundational to this regional blueprint. Competitors seeking to disrupt the international rules-based order in the Arctic must be met with a firm commitment of like- minded naval forces and nations to address shared challenges and uphold regional interests and responsibilities. When we pool resources, leverage our comparative advantage, and share responsibility for our common defense, our collective security burden becomes lighter. We will cooperatively iden- tify ways to generate synergies from each other’s postures and capabilities to confront shared regional threats. Allied and partner naval forces must jointly assess threats, define roles and missions, deepen defense industrial cooperation, and develop and exercise new concepts of operations for the Arctic Region. Equitable burden sharing is necessary and will take time, but the process of doing so will strengthen our collective capabilities.

We will strengthen existing partnerships and attract new partners to meet shared challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities in the Arctic. Together we will enhance our awareness, expand collaborative planning, and improve interoperability. In doing so, enhanced and predictable cooper- ative activities enable naval forces to maintain credible presence and deter malicious activity. Naval forces are stronger when we operate jointly and together with allies and partners.


Build a More Capable Arctic Naval Force Following the Cold War, the Navy-Marine Corps capabilities and operational expertise in the Arctic diminished. Recent efforts to increase our capabili- ties have improved operational readiness, which is required regardless of ice conditions and time of year. Though we routinely patrol on, above, and below Arctic waters, the Department must be prepared and postured to meet the demands of an increasingly accessible Arctic operating environment.

Modernize capabilities. We will invest in key capabilities that enable naval forces to maintain enhanced presence and partnerships. While meeting global requirements, we will take a targeted, disciplined, and coordinated approach to balancing our personnel, platforms, and posture to solidify our competitive advantage in the Arctic Region. In doing so, the Department will work closely with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, and Combatant Commanders to identify and meet requirements for our defense planning scenarios, campaign plans, and deployment models.

The Department will continue leading critical advancements in research, development, testing, and evaluation – including the development of cold weather-capable designs, forecasting models, sensors, high latitude communications, and navigation systems – while enhancing our ability to meet future demands."

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