Murkowski: Investment in Arctic Through Omnibus Bill

Year-End Budget Bill Priorities Arctic Needs

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski today announced many provisions within the year-end budget bill to fund the federal government that will lay the groundwork for increased research and investment in the Arctic. Included are provisions to spur construction of a Polar icebreaker, support research both onshore and offshore, and increase safety in Alaska’s waters.

“The Arctic is a national asset and should be treated as a national priority. As new possibilities and opportunities emerge in the Arctic, it is imperative that we invest today in the infrastructure and the assets that will be critical to supporting our Arctic strategy,” said Senator Murkowski. “While the U.S. Chairs the Arctic Council for the next two years, we have not only a big role but a tremendous opportunity to be a global leader in the region, and I believe we are heading in the right direction. Moving forward, I hope that the Administration will recognize the importance of the Arctic by taking the actions necessary in their upcoming budget request to provide the resources our nation needs to be a leader in the region.”

Improving Navigational Aid and Weather Forecasting

  • Increases funding for NOAA to conduct hydrographic surveys (or sonar mapping) of the nation’s coastline. Attached to that funding is a provision from Senator Murkowski emphasizing the need for Arctic mapping and setting hard deadlines with the federal agencies responsible in the region.
  • Senator Murkowski included a provision to examine the benefit that electronic navigational buoys would provide to vessels transiting the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea.
  • Requires the National Weather Service to identify any disparity in forecasting occurring in Alaska compared to the Lower 48, as well as to identify what resources are necessary to correct it. Alaska and the Arctic have some of the harshest weather in the nation, but also less forecasting than the Lower 48.
  • Requires NOAA to identify the gaps in Arctic weather and sea ice observations as well as a strategy to minimize buoy outages in the future. Alaska suffers buoy outages that can take months if not years to correct. These buoys are needed for commercial fisherman, recreation, tourist vessels, and international commerce.

Investing in Arctic Infrastructure

  • Provides $7.2 million towards a new heavy polar icebreaker.
  • Includes $640 million for the construction of a ninth National Security Cutter. 
  • Provides $480,000 for the Army Corps of Engineers investigation funding of the Kotzebue small boat harbor.

Military Support

  • Provides $2.5 million for the development of new Arctic camouflage to support U.S. Army Alaska.
  • Funds the USCG at $10.8 billion, $1 billion more than the President’s request, to improve readiness, modernize vessels and aircraft, and improve the quality of life for service members.
  • Requires a report to ensure consistent USCG presence in the Bering Sea, particularly as Arctic activities increase.

Arctic Awareness

  • Directs the Department of the Interior to work cooperatively with local stakeholders to enhance economic opportunities for the people who live and work in the Arctic region.
  • Requests the National Science Foundation provide a biennial report on federal activities in the Arctic so lawmakers and the public can better understand the work being done in the Arctic to identify information gaps and opportunities for greater coordination.

Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. Murkowski is also Co-chair of the Senate Arctic Caucus.