U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today successfully helped impose constraints on federal spending while increasing the national focus on the changing Arctic through his work on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The action came on the budget for State Department and foreign operations, which Begich helped cut by $2.86 billion from current year levels.
“Government needs to get a better handle on its priorities. We can’t just throw money at programs without proper oversight,” Begich said. “One provision I have inserted into today’s appropriations bill ensures our government runs more efficiently and that various government institutions aren’t wasting taxpayer dollars.”
Begich introduced provisions to prohibit any funds from being used to make changes to the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) facility in downtown Washington, D.C. – a facility less than 10 years old and which has adequate space. He also increased oversight and accountability for the Institute. Begich has in the past cited concerns about the duplicative nature of the USIP. The bill requires a report from the Department of State Inspector General on oversight of USIP to identify necessary resources.
Begich also underscored the critical importance of U.S. participation in the Arctic by successfully passing an amendment encouraging the Department of State to appoint an Arctic ambassador. The language mirrors legislation in a bill Begich introduced to officially appoint an Arctic ambassador. The provision also includes $1 million for grants to support science and technology in the Arctic region to enhance U.S. policy goals.
“With Arctic ice melting and more development opportunities emerging and shipping lanes opening up, the rest of the world is taking an interest in the Arctic,” Begich said. “It’s high time the U.S. also make this strategic region a priority. Appointing an Arctic ambassador is an important first step in establishing U.S. leadership on a global scale. I’m glad the committee agreed this is a priority and I will continue to press Secretary of State John Kerry to appoint an ambassador as soon as possible.”
The bill will now be considered before the full Senate.