In an optimistic, realistic, and forceful speech to the Alaska Legislature on Monday, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan acknowledged the grave challenges of the past year, with the Covid-19 pandemic, the election of a president hostile to Alaska’s economy, and the rise of the threats from Communist China.
But he also spent much of his speech envisioning a path forward for the state.
Using the story of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War, Sullivan described the U.S. Marines who were outnumbered and pinned down by North Korean fighters in all directions but one. There was nothing to do but retreat back to the sea.
He drew on the words of famed Marine Col. Chesty Puller, who once said, “We’re surrounded. They’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time.”
That, in some ways, is where Alaska is, with the coronavirus and Biden Administration policies pinning down the economy of the 49th state in all directions, allowing China to be emboldened militarily and economically.
Sullivan said President’s Biden’s attack on oil and gas and his empowering of China should “make every American pissed,” citing the “essentially slave labor” that China uses to produce the solar panels and equipment for America. “It’s outrageous. It’s nonsensical,” he said.
Something that also irritates him is how Biden withdrew the land orders that would have allowed the transfer of land allotments to Vietnam veteran Alaska Natives. He expressed strong disappointment that the effort to get those guaranteed lands into the hands of veterans, something fought for for decades, has been set on ice.
But there are bright spots: NOAA has relocated the cutter Fairweather to be home-ported in Ketchikan, which will bring 50 families to Alaska’s First City. He is optimistic about fully funded Arctic strategies for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, taking advantage of the state’s strategic footprint. He cited the F35s coming to Fairbanks, with families and jobs.
The Willow project on the North Slope, if released by the Biden Administration, will bring hundreds of jobs as well. Sullivan challenged the Biden Administration to release the project that will put more than 180 million barrels of oil in the Trans Alaska Pipeline and boost Alaska’s economy, and royalties. He described Willow as the most environmentally sound oil project on the planet.
Sullivan also passed out an outline of an energy document that he hopes to make an alternative to the Biden Administration’s current job-decimating direction.
He talked about how the pandemic has restructured much of the workforce, allowing people to move from cities that are badly managed to places where they can enjoy the lifestyles that they crave — places like Alaska. This is an unforeseen opportunity for the state, he said.
Although Sullivan was highly critical of the Biden Administration, he said Alaska Democrats could play a big part in advocating for what is important to Alaska, and he asked Democrats in the room to use their voices to convince the Biden Administration to not lock down Alaska.
He summarized his theme for the day by going back to the story of the Chosin Reservoir:
“When all seemed lost and the U.S. military was on the verge of defeat and being pushed in the sea in 1950, the Marines did the amphibious invasion at Inchon, and turned the tide.”
That’s where Alaska is, he inferred. Things may look down, but in the spirit of Chesty Puller, the promise of victory is all around Alaska.