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State agencies and the University of Alaska spent $343 million outside of Alaska for goods and services for government operations in 2015.

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Ketchikan folks like to get out and about. It's evident, especially when it comes to brighter skies this time of year. We fill up the campgrounds, the beaches, the trails, and the roads and highways to get there.

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Anne Marie Carleton, 73, died April 25, 2016, in Arizona.
Ginny Gisse, 69, died April 5, 2016, at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
3/13/2013
Important program

Life can change quickly, despite the best defenses.

Case in point: Mark Mihal, 43, is playing golf in Illinois when a sinkhole opens underneath him. He might have found the 18-foot deep, 10-foot wide hole deadly if others hadn't been around to rescue him.

"I felt the ground start to collapse and it happened so fast that I couldn't do anything," Mihal says. "I reached for the ground as I was going down and it gave way, too. It seemed like I was falling for a long time. The real scary part was I didn't know when I would hit bottom and what I would land on."

Now, imagine, if that weren't Mihal and a sinkhole, but the United States and a nuclear attack. Without the appropriate defenses, both can be deadly — the latter on a phenomenal scale.

Nuclear threats occur toward the United States by North Korea.

"North Korea's latest threat cannot and should not be taken for granted," says Alaska Congressman Don Young. "Alaska is one of the most strategic places in the world, especially when it comes to protecting this country from rogue nations and their threats of nuclear attacks."

President Obama, keenly aware of the threats in both East Asia and the Middle East, spoke about the importance of continued development and installation of a robust Missile Defense Program in his State of the Union address.

Congressman Young wrote to the President later: "While an attack on our soil may seem improbable, it is clear that we can no longer rely on sanctions to defend our homeland. Our inability to use political pressure to prevent these nations from acquiring and using such devastating capabilities precipitates the need for continued and strong support for our defense."

Whether it is nuclear attacks or sinkholes, surprises happen. It's wise to be prepared for them, when possible.

With Alaska's position on the globe, the ground-based interceptor missiles and radar sites here are critical to the nation's defense missile program.

This program, with the existing threats toward the United States, and Alaska's role in it should be one of the nation's top priorities.

If it isn't, then one day Americans will get that sinking feeling Mike Mihal describes.