White House Announces Appointment of New U.S. Arctic Research Commissioners

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) made the following statement after the Biden Administration appointed new U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) Commissioners and a new chair. USARAC is an independent federal agency that advises the President and Congress on domestic and international Arctic research.

USARC Commissioners will include Dr. Mike Sfraga, Director of the Polar Institute at the Wilson Center (who will serve as the Chair of the Commission); Deborah Vo, who previously served as Senator Murkowski’s Rural Outreach Coordinator; Mark Myers, former Director of the U.S. Geological Survey; Jackie Richter Mengue, retired civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Region Research and Engineering Laboratory; Liz Cravalho, Vice President of Lands at NANA, an Alaska-Native Corporation; and the reappointment of David Kennedy, retired Senior Policy Advisor at NOAA.

“These new commissioners are solid, capable individuals who certainly have the credentials to serve in these new roles. I’ve been privileged to work with many of these Alaskans over the years. Dr. Mike Sfraga is a strong selection to chair the commission and will do a great job. I appreciate that so many of the new commissioners are Alaskans and Alaska Natives, and others have a significant experience in the Arctic, government, academia, research, or all of the above. They will play a vital role in shaping our nation’s Arctic policies and priorities,” said Senator Murkowski. “While this is a good group of commissioners, I’m disappointed with the manner in which the Biden administration reshaped USARC. This administration broke with precedence and terminated four, presidentially appointed USARC commissioners before their respective terms expired, and did not renew the term of a highly respected Alaska Native whaling captain despite there still being a vacancy on the commission. This kind of political intervention should not be necessary in an Arctic research-based commission. If sudden, unprecedented changes to the commission were required, then I expect big things from this new group of commissioners as it pertains to conducting Arctic research and integrating it into effective policy.” 

Senator Murkowski continues to urge the Biden administration to advance a number of priorities in the Arctic, including reactivating the Arctic Executive Steering Committee and the establishment of the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies in Alaska, the sixth DoD Regional Center and the only one specifically focused on the Arctic.

Background: Senator Murkowski is the leading expert among her Congressional colleagues on Arctic issues and has worked continuously to raise awareness of the region. At the beginning of the 114th Congress, Senator Murkowski and Senator Angus King (I-ME) formed the Senate Arctic Caucus to advance issues important to the Arctic and to the people who live there. Murkowski is the Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region. Murkowski has also led the charge to recapitalize and expand America’s fleet of Polar Security Cutters (also known as icebreakers).

Related Issues: Arctic