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Sullivan looks back at challenging year and forward toward Alaska’s opportunities

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.

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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.

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Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. Seeing the image of the state’s leaders all boxed in is not very optimistic, but it does point out the reality we are moving toward even more dangerous times and a more dangerous virus that can’t even be stopped by a vaccine. So get your box (shield) and cover your body.

  2. Too bad the marine, Dan Sullivan, wasn’t willing to hold at the nations capitol,in January when surrounded by fellowRepublicans . Rather he had cruel and accusatory words against the mob that “ stormed “ the capitol and in their evil “ search and destroy” mission grabbed poor Nancy’s laptop.

  3. Senator Sullivan can be blamed for parts of the administration lockdown in Alaska by voting for the confirmation of appointees who are vehemently opposed to anything in Alaska except make it a giant national park. His votes to confirm individuals to important roles has created the possible closure of an energy industry that provides dollars to be used for State Government.

  4. There is no Coast Guard Cutter “Fairweather”. That is a NOAA ship. Not sure if Senator Dan or Suzanne made this mistake.

  5. You still got lots of ‘splainin’ to do, Danny Boy. I lost my confidence in you a while back and your latest movement back to the right is not convincing.

  6. Senator Sullivan has one of the toughest jobs in the country right now. Walking a tightrope doesn’t begin to describe it. I sincerely doubt that any of his naysayers could get a tenth as much done as he does. No I don’t agree with some of his moves but I wasn’t there. He needs our support right now. He has mine.

  7. The situation is readily apparent. The Dept of Interior has orders to delay or refuse any resource extraction permits in the state of Alaska. Talking with MMS ( minerals, management services in Anchorage) they are NOT ALLOWED TO WORK ON PERMITS.
    Let’s be real, the DC crowd round files our permits and gives lip service to the analysis. I can assure you that if our delegations walk into the DOI offices and demands current updates/ reports they will be stalled from any info.
    Our economy is limited to ; tourism, military and air freight.
    Is there any question why we have a loss of 27,000 people in the last 5 years ???
    Welcome to the Democrats version of West Virginia on the Pacific.

  8. Dave wrote:
    “Senator Sullivan has one of the toughest jobs in the country right now. Walking a tightrope doesn’t begin to describe it. I sincerely doubt that any of his naysayers could get a tenth as much done as he does. No I don’t agree with some of his moves but I wasn’t there. He needs our support right now. He has mine.”

    So you are OK with his full endorsement of Murkowski?

  9. I am disappointed in Sullivan’s slow response after the election. We had our own little Pearl Harbor with surprise attacks that effects everyone in Alaska. First wave of attack was our petroleum industry, closing the XL pipeline and alienating our Canadian neighbors, next our fishing industry here in SE, the cruise/tourism industry….mining could be next but the Chinese need precious metals so we’ll se how that goes. I’m not sure where our lawsuits even stand, we don’t get any information from him.

  10. To Steve Peterson / May 4, 2021, no, we’re not okay with his full endorsement of Murkowski.
    Problem is, folks who believe they own Murkowski seem to be okay with their investment,
    okay enough to protect it with Alaska’s new, non-transparent Dominion vote-tabulating machinery, ranked-choice voting, and unchecked ballot harvesting
    … which means Alaska’s junior senator has to be careful, has to be perceived as Murkowski-friendly, because he knows that which protects Murkowski so well could easily neutralize him.

  11. I’m not comfortable with his decisions supporting some of Biden’s secretary picks, please judge them on their record not on what you hope they might do.

  12. “………Dan, I’m still voting you out, next time around………”
    To vote him out, you must vote somebody else in. Who do you think that might be? Isn’t it a but premature to make such a projection? ALL elections are reduced to voting for the lesser of the offered evils, and you have no idea who the other offered evils will be.

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