Murkowski: Arctic Representative An Improvement, but Questions Remain

Senator: Urgency and Action Needed in Arctic, Clarity Sought About Position

Three days after Senator Lisa Murkowski expressed criticism of the Obama administration’s lack of thoughtful, active engagement in the Arctic – through her letter to the President about his ‘Implementation Plan’ – Secretary of State John Kerry sent her a letter (attached) informing her of his plans to announce a ‘Special Representative for the Arctic Region.’

Today’s letter from Secretary Kerry follows a series of discussions between Senator Murkowski and Vice President Joe Biden on this matter, where Biden told the Senator that actions were underway within the administration to step up American efforts in the Arctic. Senator Murkowski visited with Secretary Kerry before Thanksgiving, where she reiterated her call that he name a U.S. ambassador to the Arctic that could oversee and coordinate Arctic efforts across numerous federal agencies and departments.

"The White House’s lackluster efforts to seize the opportunities opening up in the Arctic have been a national embarrassment to this point.  The other Arctic nations are proceeding full steam ahead and even non-Arctic nations like Italy, India, China and South Korea are all making an Arctic push – while America slips further behind,” said Murkowski. “Though I welcome the administration paying more attention and devoting more energy to an Arctic agenda, I question whether or not the title ‘Special Representative’ is on par with an Ambassador, a position I’ve consistently recommended.  7 of the 8 Arctic nations have an Arctic Ambassador, and I’m not sure we are there yet.  This position demands a high level official with expertise and Arctic knowledge in order to be on par with the international community and I seek clarity from Secretary Kerry on this.”

Senator Murkowski is considered the leading expert among her Congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle on Arctic issues – and has worked continuously in her time on Capitol Hill to raise awareness that Alaska is the reason that America is an Arctic Nation.  Beyond being an outspoken advocate for an Arctic agenda in Washington, DC, Murkowski has also represented the nation alongside cabinet members at international events like the Arctic Parliamentarians and Arctic Council.

In November of 2013, Senator Murkowski visited the Pentagon to push an Arctic agenda with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the State Department to advance the Arctic dialogue with Secretary John Kerry. (Above) The United States is scheduled to assume the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, and Murkowski is determined to build momentum for America’s role in the Arctic in the months leading up to that event.

In light of today’s news Senator Murkowski plans to upgrade and intensify her work to remind Congress that the United States is an Arctic nation.