Text of Pentagon’s New Arctic Strategy

The Pentagon's New Arctic StrategyThe DoD Arctic Strategy outlines how the Department will support the whole-of-government effort to promote security, stewardship, and international cooperation in the Arctic. The Department’s strategic approach to the Arctic reflects the relatively low level of military threat in a region bounded by nation States that have not only publicly committed to working within a common framework of international law and diplomatic engagement,6 but have also demonstrated the ability and commitment to do so. In consideration of enduring national interests in the Arctic and existing strategic guidance, the Department’s end-state for its strategic approach to the Arctic 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.


The Department’s two supporting objectives describe what is to be accomplished to achieve its desired end-state. These objectives are bounded by policy guidance, the changing nature of the strategic and physical environment, and the capabilities and limitations of the available instruments of national power (diplomatic, informational, military, and economic). Actions taken to achieve these objectives will be informed by the Department’s global priorities and fiscal constraints.

In order to achieve its strategic endstate, the Department’s supporting objectives are:

• Ensure security, support safety, and promote defense cooperation .

– Relationships with allies and partners are important enablers of cooperation in meeting security and defense commitments. These relationships also play an important role in conflict prevention, and, if prevention and deterrence fail, in coordinating an international response to security and defense challenges. Although the Department of State is the lead for regional diplomacy, DoD has a supporting role enhancing the region’s capability and capacity for multilateral security collaboration, and responding to requests for assistance from interagency and international partners both within and outside the Arctic. This collaborative approach helps prevent conflict and provides the stability needed to facilitate the sustainable economic development envisioned in the National Strategy for the Arctic Region. The Department of Defense will seek out areas of mutual interest to build strategic relationships and encourage operational-level partnerships that promote innovative, affordable security solutions and enhance burdensharing in the Arctic. Science and technology (S&T) can provide non-contentious opportunities for cooperation, and DoD will coordinate research initiatives with the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC).

– The Department has an important role supporting other Federal departments and agencies in safety-related missions in Alaska and in responding to requests from civil authorities to support them with disaster relief or humanitarian assistance at home or abroad. Although the Department has seldom been tasked to execute these missions in the Arctic, it may be asked to do more in the coming decades.

• 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.

– Future challenges in the Arctic may span the full range of national security interests. These challenges and contingencies may take many forms, ranging from the need to support other Federal departments and agencies—or another nation—in responding to a natural or man-made disaster to responding to security concerns that may emerge in the future.


The Department will pursue comprehensive engagement with allies and partners to protect the homeland and support civil authorities in preparing for increased human activity in the Arctic. Strategic partnerships are the center of gravity in ensuring a peaceful opening of the Arctic and achieving the Department’s desired end-state. Where possible, DoD will seek innovative, low-cost, smallfootprint approaches to achieve these objectives (e.g., by participating
in multilateral exercises like the Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) hosted by Greenland, COLD RESPONSE hosted by Norway, and Canada’s Operation NANOOK, or through Defense Environmental International Cooperation Program-supported engagements on Arctic issues). The Department will also evolve its infrastructure and capabilities in step with the changing physical environment in order to ensure security, support safety, promote defense cooperation, and prepare to respond to a wide range of challenges and contingencies in the Arctic in the coming decades. The Department will accomplish its objectives through the following ways:

• Exercise sovereignty and protect the homeland;
• Engage public and private sector partners to improve domain awareness in the Arctic;
• Preserve freedom of the seas in the Arctic;
• Evolve Arctic infrastructure and capabilities consistent with changing conditions;
• Support existing agreements with allies and partners while pursuing new ones to build confidence with key regional partners;
• Provide support to civil authorities, as directed;
• Partner with other departments and agencies and nations to support human and environmental safety; and
• Support the development of the Arctic Council and other international institutions that promote regional cooperation and the rule of law.

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Image: The Pentagon's New Arctic Strategy (graphic: Department of Defense)