Learning about the military’s impact in Alaska

By: Maggie Wilson Posted: 04/15/2019

Attendees at Chamber’s Alaska Business Forum hear from Coast Guard Captain, CEO of Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation


Alaska military spending generates more jobs and income in the state than almost any other industry, according to economists with the University of Alaska Anchorage. In April, attendees at our latest Alaska Business Forum heard a discussion on fleets and aircrafts, the U.S. presence in the Arctic, and how the military has protected our coastline for more than 150 years.

Captain Linda Sturgis, Sector Commander with the Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, U.S. Coast Guard, gave a snapshot of a day in the life of Sector Puget Sound. She discussed the Coast Guard’s responsibilities doing search and rescue and protecting the safety of human lives, whales, and property at sea. Captain Sturgis also touched on the Coast Guard’s Arctic program.

The Coast Guard currently has only one Antarctic-class icebreaker, the Polar Star, and hopes to secure funding for more icebreakers. Captain Sturgis also talked about the significance of the Duwamish waterway to Alaska. 

She said the three tenets of Sector Puget Sound Coast Guard are: safety, economic security, and environmental protection.

“We’re here for you,” Captain Sturgis said of service.

Jim Dodson, President and CEO of Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, discussed how Fairbanks became involved in BRAC issues and turned it around. “You need to get people involved,” Dodson said of rallying communities.

Dodson noted there is an important difference between thanking the military for their work and showing genuine support of the military by allotting resources.

“We’re a military town,” Dodson said of Fairbanks. Dodson noted that Alaska pays close attention to the state of Washington, which is also very impacted by the military. 

Dodson highlighted the importance of aircrafts to Alaska, and spotlighted a 1935 quote by Brigadier General Billy Mitchell, who proclaimed, “Alaska is the most central place in the world for aircraft."

Dodson touched on the Trump administration’s current work drafting a new Arctic defense strategy, and noted that in recent years, Russia has unveiled a new Arctic command and China announced encouraging Arctic shipping routes to form a “Polar Silk Road.” Dodson suggested we will know more about U.S. strategy in June.

Captain Sturgis also touched on the growing importance of having strategic U.S. presence in the Arctic.

“The Coast Guard is very committed to being a strong force in the Arctic,” Captain Sturgis said.

Want to learn more? Come to the next Alaska Business Forum. The Alaska Business Forum helps build relationships in the business community and provides information on issues of concern to the Alaskan and Puget Sound regions. The monthly events offer insights on a variety of industries, including maritime, seafood, and technology.