Army Chief Gen. Mark Milley said Wednesday he is recommending that the Army not remove troops stationed in Alaska because of the threat from Russia.
The Army chief's recommendation to keep the 4-25 Airborne Brigade comes after Milley's visit earlier this month to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, where the brigade combat team is based in Anchorage, Alaska.
"I've concluded, after four, five, six months here of pretty intensive study that Russia is not only acting aggressively in Europe, they're also asserting themselves in the Pacific, and specifically in the Arctic," Milley said during a Senate appropriations defense subcommittee hearing.
Milley called Russia the "number one" threat to the U.S. and said Moscow has been surging equipment to the Arctic.
"They've activated additional brigades, they've put up some command and control capabilities, and they've done some other things in the north," he said. "In my view, Russia is the number one threat to the United States."
"We've got a national capability there that I think is worthwhile keeping," he said.
I think we need to at least keep them for an additional year, defer our decision for one year and that would be my best military advice at this time." Acting Army Secretary Patrick Murphy, who testified alongside Milley, stopped short of saying he approved the recommendation but said, "I have the authority to act on that, and I look forward to giving you — and working with you as we review this — shortly, an answer."
The recommendation comes after the Pentagon unveiled its budget earlier this month, which foresees the Army continuing to shrink from about 475,000 troops to 450,000 by the end of 2018.
The planned cut would affect 2,600 soldiers with the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.
The Pentagon was hit in 2013 with massive defense cuts of $500 billion over 10 years, known as sequestration. That came right after the Pentagon already planned to cut $487 billion from its budget.
The cut of the Alaska brigade was announced last July.
Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiPence casts tiebreaking Senate procedural vote on funding for abortion providers Elle honors 10 at annual 'Women in Washington' event Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing MORE (R), Alaska's senior senator, on Wednesday called Milley's recommendation "welcome news." She and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) have both been pushing to save the brigade.
"That is very welcome news, and much appreciated," said Murkowski.
Milley said the brigade is the only one with airborne vertical insertion and forced entry capabilities available to U.S. Pacific Command Commander Adm. Harry Harris to deal with contingencies in East Asia.
"We want that capability in the kitbag for the president of the United States, and the combatant commander and the Secretary of Defense, and to have that tool available if required. They can rapidly deploy — they're less than eight hours from any hot spot not only in the Pacific but other parts of the world," Milley added.