Alternative Approaches to Defense Strategy and Force Structure

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing to receive testimony on alternative approaches to defense strategy and force structure. During the hearing, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) raised the issue of Alaska’s significance for national energy security.


The hearing witnesses were:

  • Thomas Donnelly – Resident Fellow and Co-Director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute; written testimony
  • Shawn Brimley – Executive VP and Director of Studies at the Center for a New American Security; written testimony
  • Andrew F. Krepinevich – President at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments; written testimony
  • Christopher A. Preble – VP for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute; written testimony
  • Dakota L. Wood – Senior Research Fellow for the Defense Programs at the heritage Foundation; written testimony


Sen. Sullivan said that a number of administration officials—including Defense Secretary Ashton Carter—have talked about new sources of American energy that had been neglected in the recent past.


Coming from a state that is a big energy producer and wants to produce more, he asked the witnesses how the nation can take advantage of Alaska’s resources. He said the State of Alaska is working on a large scale LNG project that would help Alaskan citizens with low cost energy and would provide Asian allies with strategic energy benefits.


Brimley noted the significance of an energy independent North America by the end of this century, with the U.S. acting as a player in the global market. He said the geopolitics will be interesting and potentially destabilizing in a world where Middle East exports would not go west across the Atlantic, but be shipped east to the Pacific. All sorts of interesting effects will develop, such as China’s investment choices.


Brimley said the U.S. needs to think very seriously about tracking potentially destabilizing activities.


Sen. Sullivan asked if anyone had other thoughts on what the federal government could do seize this opportunity, given that many historical conflicts both started and were settled over energy resources.


In response, Donnelly said that supplying Japan with a stable source of energy would solidify a very important strategic relationship. In fact, all of the Trans Pacific Partnership countries would benefit from alternative routes of supply.


In contrast, destabilizing events are occurring in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is spending its cash reserves at an extraordinary rate to try to underbid fracking sources and offset Iran’s anticipated production. There are a host of potential answers as to what this means for the stability of the Saudi kingdom, but all of them are bad. A regime change has been considered for decades and would have international political effects, as well as not so good security implications for the U.S.