Sullivan: Increased military presence is an economic asset

Sen, Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

Sen. Dan Sullivan joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1993, after earning a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, and although he’s no longer on active duty, he’s quick to remind folks that “as a Marine, I am a colonel still serving.”

He is indeed, by his own telling currently an infantry officer and colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve and the only member of the U.S. Senate still serving in the military.

Since leaving active duty in 1997, he has since served in the Marine Corps Reserve and has twice been recalled to active duty, from 2004 to 2006 and from 2009 to 2013.

Born and raised in Ohio, the son of the president and CEO of a multinational corporation, Sullivan graduated from a military prep school in Indiana and Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in economics before heading for law school and the Marine Corps.

His re-election campaign website (dansullivanforalaska.com/issues) puts emphasis on his military career and the fact that he still serves, after 25 years as a Marine.

A U.S. Senator since 2014, Sullivan currently serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee.

On his campaign website he takes credit for military issues ranging from securing millions of dollars for military construction in Alaska to stationing F-35A fighter squadrons at Eielson Air Force Base. Much of the credit for the F-35s coming to Fairbanks actually goes to a major lobbying effort by Fairbanks business and political leaders, as well as Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and former Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska. The announced intention of the U.S. Air Force in the summer of 2016 to send the F-35s to Eielson meant that some 3,000 airmen, dependents and civilian personnel would be moving to the area starting in 2020 to handle maintenance and operation of the aircraft, Fairbanks journalist Dermot Cole reported in his column on July 7, 2016. Operations and maintenance expenditures alone are expected to cost U.S. taxpayers over $5 billion, Cole noted.

“What I did was to stop the bleeding,” Sullivan said, in an interview with The Cordova Times, of his role in secure millions of dollars for an increased military presence in Alaska, including the U.S. Coast Guard. Benefits of this increased presence, he said, include security and jobs for the Alaska economy.

“I ran because the previous administration dramatically cut defense spending, hurting the economy and job opportunity,” he contends.

A former Alaska commissioner of Natural Resources, Sullivan also supports opening the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas development, a move that has outraged the Gwich’in people who depend on the Porcupine caribou herd as part of their subsistence lifestyle. The Porcupine herd does its calving on the coastal plain, an area that the Gwich’in consider to be sacred ground.

Sullivan supports reversing the Roadless Rule to allow for timber harvests, mineral development and construction of energy projects, regulatory approval of the Donlin Creek Mine and other North Slope development projects.

On fisheries issues, Sullivan takes credit for aid to fisheries on several fronts, including the federal Save Our Seas Act, legislation that the environmental entity Ocean Conservancy has cited as not the end of the fight but the beginning in its effort to end the growing marine debris problem.

Sullivan has support from United Fishermen of Alaska, the umbrella group in Juneau that represents a number processor and harvester groups participating in Alaska fisheries.

UFA recently voted to endorse Sullivan for re-election to the Senate. According to UFA President Matt Alward “his demonstrated leadership and effectiveness in advancing the interests of Alaska’s fisheries and fishermen across the state. Time and time again, Dan Sullivan has stood up for Alaska fishermen and coastal communities,” Alward said.

UFA’s decision has irked some UFA members, including longliner Mike Mayo of Sitka.

“I was upset about UFA endorsing Sullivan over Al Gross and have been trying to future out why,” Mayo said. “I can’t see how UFA could not endorse a fisherman, especially Al (Gross), whose mom was the first director at UFA. What’s going on?”

Frances Leach, executive director of UFA, said that Sullivan has been “approachable, trustworthy and an effective advocate for commercial fishermen, and we are pleased to continue this partnership in the coming years.”

Leach acknowledged in an email to Mayo that she was receiving communications from some UFA members who disapproved of the endorsement. She said she would pass on those concerns to UFA’ executive committee.