With the Government Accountability Office (GAO) releasing a breakthrough 74 page study confirming Alaskans’ suspicions of the nation’s anemic engagement in the Arctic region, Senator Lisa Murkowski joined a number of her Congressional colleagues in calling attention to the need for more action at this juncture.
Tied to America’s impending role as Chair of the Arctic Council, the GAO report is entitled “Better Direction and Management of Voluntary Recommendations Could Enhance U.S. Arctic Council Participation.” Among the findings are the need for leadership, collaboration among agencies, and a point person to synthesize America’s efforts and priorities in the region – all of which Senator Murkowski has previously pressed the administration about.
“This GAO report underlines and highlights the core threat to America’s future as an Arctic nation: we’re late in establishing a path forward and the federal agencies need to work together as we move forward,” said Murkowski. “This is one of the reasons we need an Arctic Ambassador with the authority to make decisions, and coordinate and oversee projects as we’re at this crucial juncture. The United States will be chairing the Arctic Council starting next year, which will either be an opportunity to highlight our leadership in the region, or undermine it depending on our government’s approach,” Senator Murkowski said.
The GAO study focused on U.S. participation in the Arctic Council, a voluntary body started in 1996 that includes the eight Arctic nations—Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the U.S., as well as indigenous groups and other stakeholders. The State Department leads participation for the U.S.
The U.S. has not prioritized its commitments to the Arctic Council and is limited in its ability to respond to emergencies in the Arctic region, the report found. As sea ice melts, making way for increased commercial activity, the report recommends a stronger strategy for U.S. participation in the Arctic Council and better process to track progress toward achieving Council goals.