U.S. Defense Department appoints a leader for its new Arctic security center

Randy “Church” Kee will build international networks of security leaders at the new academic regional center.

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Retired U.S. Air Force Major General Rancy “Church” Kee speaks a the 8th Symposium on the Impacts of an Ice Diminishing Arctic on Naval and Maritime Operations, on July 18, 2019. (John Farrell / U.S. Arctic Research Commission)

A retired U.S. Air Force major general will lead the U.S. Defense Department’s new Arctic security center, the department said on Wednesday.

Randy “Church” Kee was named the senior adviser for Arctic security affairs at the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies. Kee will oversee the establishment of the center and advise the department on Arctic security policy.

The academic center will build international networks of security leaders across the North. “Kee will also work with partner nations to ensure a stable, rules-based order in the Arctic that will benefit the United States and all Arctic nations,” the Defense Department said in a statement.

It is the department’s sixth and newest regional center, and the only one to focus on the Arctic. Other regional centers are focused on security in Europe, Africa and Asia.

The center’s location has not yet been announced. The department previously floated three cities as possible sites: Anchorage — where Kee is currently based — as well as Colorado Springs and Washington, D.C.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, has strongly advocated for the center to be located in Alaska. The University of Alaska said it would cost $6.5 million to establish the center there.

Murkowski secured $10 million in funding for the center in this year’s budget appropriation, in addition to helping create the center through the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

When the new center was announced in June, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a statement that the center will “work with like-minded partners” to “address the need for U.S. engagement and international cooperation to strengthen the rules-based order in the region and tackle shared challenges such as climate change.”

Kee, a retired U.S. Air Force major general, was previously the executive director of the Arctic Domain Awareness Center at the University of Alaska. In 2020, he was appointed a commissioner of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission.

Murkowski highlighted Kee’s significant knowledge of the Arctic, his leadership experience, his military service — and, she noted in a statement on Wednesday, “he is an Alaskan. He’s undoubtedly the right man for this job.”

“This is a big and welcome step towards making the Ted Stevens Center a reality,” Murkowski said. “I now look forward to DoD’s next steps, including selecting a location for the center.”