SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

National Strategy for the Arctic Region Announced


May 13, 2013

(SitNews - Ketchikan, Alaska) - The Arctic is rapidly changing. While the Arctic region has experienced warming and cooling cycles over millennia, the current warming trend is unlike anything previously recorded. As sea ice diminishes, ocean resources are more readily accessible. This accessibility, along with recent scientific estimates indicating the presence of significant energy and other resources, have inspired strong interest for new commercial initiatives in the region, including energy production, increased shipping, scientific research, tourism, and related infrastructure development.

Friday, President Obama's administration released the National Strategy for the Artic Region. Through this strategy, the administartion will be setting the United States Government’s strategic priorities for the Arctic region. These priorities are intended to position the United States to respond effectively to emerging opportunities – while simultaneously pursuing efforts to protect and conserve this unique environment.

The priorities include: advancing U.S. security interests, pursuing responsible Arctic region stewardship, and strengthening U.S. international cooperation. The strategy will be to advance these priorities in a manner that: safeguards peace and stability in the region, utilizes the best available information for decisions, emphasizes the use of innovative arrangements, and underscores the importance of consulting and coordinating with Alaskan Native communities.

The National Strategy for the Arctic Region recognizes the nation's existing policy structure and ongoing efforts by more than 20 federal departments and agencies as well as U.S. Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski, Representative Don Young, the State of Alaska, and Alaskan Native communities, which has been underway for decades.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) welcomed the administration’s Strategy for the Arctic Region, to set a tone for the Arctic Council’s meeting this week in Sweden – where she has been invited to join Secretary of State John Kerry due to her leadership on Arctic issues on Capitol Hill. 

Murkowski said, “I welcome the release of the Administration’s National Strategy for the Arctic Region, identifying strategic priorities for the United States in the Arctic Region for the next 10 years – and their top line acknowledgement that America is an Arctic Nation.  As the Strategy notes, issues such as circumpolar maritime transit, greater access to resources, and the needs of the indigenous people of the Arctic are coming to the forefront and the Arctic’s importance to the United States as a nation demands greater attention."

“I agree with the assertion that the Strategy must promote greater unity of effort between Federal departments and agencies, and the State of Alaska and those living in the Arctic region," said Murkowski.  "I look forward to working with the Administration and the National Security Staff as it develops its implementation plan this summer in order to ensure those commitments are met and that the Arctic is viewed as a national issue and not just a regional one.”

This week will be Senator Murkowski’s second straight trip to the Arctic Council meetings, held every other year.  In 2011, she joined then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Nuuk, Greenland in a historic trip when Clinton and Murkowski became the first Secretary of State and Senator to attend an Arctic Council meeting.

Murkowski has continued her educational campaign on Capitol Hill and around the world encouraging Americans to pursue an Arctic Future as an Arctic Nation.

Calling it a good start which now requires resources to implement, U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) also welcomed Friday’s release of a National Strategy for the Arctic Region produced by the Obama administration.

“I’m pleased this administration responded to our request to recognize the enormous opportunities and challenges in a changing Arctic,” Begich said. “Until now, the U.S. was the only Arctic nation lacking a formal strategy and effort to coordinate federal agencies in their approach to the Arctic. Now the challenge will be committing to the icebreakers, Arctic ports and dedication to science which is vital to sustainable management of the Arctic.”

The Strategy released Friday lays out America’s Arctic priorities for the next 10 years, from economic opportunities and better scientific understanding to incorporating traditional knowledge from the Alaska Native peoples who live there.

Last July, Begich wrote to President Obama asking him to undertake such a strategy, noting that America is an Arctic nation only because of Alaska. The request was co-signed by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski.

Based on an initial review of the Strategy, Begich commended it for the promise to work with Alaskans, including Alaska Natives, the State and private sector “to execute federal responsibilities in our Arctic waters, airspace and coastal regions.” He also praised its emphasis on passage of the Law of the Sea Treaty, which Begich has been pushing since he arrived in the Senate.

Begich noted that while the Strategy emphasizes more federal focus on the Arctic, resources to help manage it are being cut. For example, Begich called short-sighted the administration’s Coast Guard budget proposal which slashes 13 percent or nearly $1 billion overall, including cutting funding for icebreakers. As chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, Begich is working to keep responsible the budgets for those agencies which play such a key role in the Arctic.

Begich welcomed release of the Strategy as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Sweden this week to participate in a meeting of the Arctic Council. Begich was invited to travel with Kerry, but the Senate business in Washington prevents him from the trip. Begich urged Kerry to consider the appointment of a U.S. Arctic ambassador and to build on the momentum of recent international negotiations regarding commercial fishing in Arctic waters.  Six of eight Arctic nations, including Russia, Norway and Finland, have named Ambassador-level diplomats representing their interests before the Arctic Council. 

Representative Don Young (R-AK) said, “Finally!  It’s about time that the Administration acknowledged the importance of a strong presence in the Arctic.  From to shipping to tourism, power projection to resource development, I am glad that the Administration has at least released something that reflects our need to be a leader in the Arctic.  I was also pleased to see the White House pay special attention to building and maintaining a strong relationship with Alaska Natives on Arctic issues.” 

Young said, “We are an Arctic nation because of Alaska, and yet we are woefully unprepared to be an active participant in the Arctic theater.  We learned a hard lesson during the Korean War about fighting in an Arctic environment because we weren’t ready for the Arctic conditions.  This new policy guidance is an important first step, but we must remember, it is just the first step.” 


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


On the Web:

National Strategy for the Arctic Region



Sources of News: 


Office of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Office of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich

Office of Rep. Don Young


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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