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Proposed projects will benefit future Alaskans, improve quality of life today

Posted: Thursday, June 10, 2010

Alaska requires infrastructure to reach resources and improve the economy. Gov. Sean Parnell created the Alaska Military Force Advocacy and Structure Team (AMFAST) to provide recommendations for cooperative projects that support and expand the military industry in our state. As chairman of the AMFAST, I am pleased to tell you that our short-term strategic plan has already yielded success!

This year's capital budget includes $40 million towards construction of the Tanana River Bridge. This structure is a dual-use rail and wheeled-vehicle crossing that provides dependable year round access to the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC). This project is the highest priority for the active military component in our state, and military leaders in the Pacific Theater.

The development of this training facility allows maximum use by existing military resources in our state and provides tremendous opportunity to units from other states and countries to train in this remote area. The JPARC provides unparalleled training with minimal impact to existing civilian communities. Increased training activity correlates directly to increased dollars into our economy. These dollars will travel with the troops from the port of entry at Anchorage or the Mat-Su Borough and end in Fairbanks and North Pole when soldiers spend time in the community between exercises and training events. The work force to develop and maintain this vast complex is also a healthy addition.

Another success comes from the $4 million appropriated to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation specifically for the Kodiak Launch Complex. Like an airport, a space port has fixed operating costs that drive the capability of doing business. This money adds more jobs to the economy by making launches more competitive in the world space market.

More launches mean more jobs, and more jobs mean more demand for educated students from the University of Alaska. The Kodiak Launch Complex is located at a sweet spot for payload delivery into polar orbits. The same rockets launched from Kodiak can lift more cargo into space than competitive space ports.

As launches increase and operations expand, more money will flow into local economies across the state. The military will have access to a state of the art launch facility and private space companies will have immediate launch capability that is second to none for accessing polar orbits.

Continuing to work together, local, state and federal entities will build infrastructure projects that will benefit the residents of Alaska for the next 100 years while significantly improving our quality of life today. The AMFAST team will give many more recommendations to the governor and work in earnest with the legislature.

We can partner military research and development projects with the University of Alaska. We can hire unmanned aerial vehicles from the Alaska Aerospace Corporation to monitor wildlife in the ocean or the ice pack in the Arctic. We can even work together to develop synthetic fuels to power our aircraft and automobiles that will complement our existing traditional hydrocarbon production.

We are currently building the AMFAST long range strategic plan with the help and recommendations of many local leaders across the state. We will forward those recommendations to the governor in July. Together we will make the United States military stronger in Alaska and improve the economy at the same time by capitalizing on the incredible opportunities our great state provides.

• Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus is adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, where he has spent his entire military career, and is commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. He was raised north of Wasilla at his family's homestead and is the son of immigrant parents. His father was a World War II veteran who spent his civilian career at the Alaska Railroad.



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