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Murkowski: “U.S. Can’t Afford to Sit on the Sideline” with Arctic Opportunities

Senator Challenges Administration, Congress to Prioritize Arctic Matters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski – seen as the leader on Arctic issues in Congress – today spoke on the Senate floor, urging the White House and federal government to seize the opportunities opening up in the Arctic and invest in an Arctic future like the international community is. After months of seeking answers and action from the administration, Murkowski laid out her frustrations with its “National Strategy” – which she called a “glorified memo” – and its “Implementation Plan” – which she derided as “a snapshot of existing programs.”

Beyond the White House documents, Murkowski expressed frustration (clip one) at the lack of awareness and urgency demonstrated by two Cabinet members she has recently questioned in Senate hearings when asked about their Arctic priorities:

Both have responded that the Arctic is a priority – that it is important to the United States – but neither could tell me what their Department’s budget request contained for the Arctic. That to me is symbolic of the Arctic’s overall standing within the Administration.  Lots of good words when asked, but not important enough to be proactive on or be familiar with without prompting.

Murkowski took issue with the fact the “Implementation Plan,” in part because it charges the Smithsonian with responsibilities to make Arctic communities sustainable, saying it suggests “the people of the Far North are a museum exhibit to be placed under a glass bubble.” (clip two)

Senator Murkowski also framed the issue as one of economics, citing research indicating that nations taking their Arctic ambitious seriously are enjoying economic booms (clip three):

Russia to the West and Canada to the East, continue with aggressive national plans that include state investment to develop northern resources and advance commerce in the region…. A recent report by the Norwegian Shipowner’s Association shows that the regions bordering the Arctic Ocean are experiencing higher annual economic growth than the rest of their respective nations on average and are considered drivers for economic growth in the Arctic countries.

Murkowski closed her remarks with a call to action to her United States Senate colleagues, the administration and the nation, saying (clip four):
 

The United States has never been last in a race to the future, but absent any visionary leadership and meaningful resourcing, we will continue to take a back seat and fail to capitalize on all the Arctic has to offer.  We will miss out on resource development and shipping efficiencies, and in turn new opportunities to create new jobs and generate needed economic growth.  We cannot afford to sit on the sideline any longer – which means it is time for the federal government, and particularly this Administration, to start taking the Arctic seriously and dedicate the necessary resources to the region.

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