UA retains Washington DC firm for federal relations contract
The University of Alaska has secured the Washington, DC-based firm Patton Boggs to assist with federal relations, following the retirement of federal relations director Martha Stewart the end of December.
Stewart, founder of the Arctic Sounder newspaper, a former nurse and legislative aide to former Sen. Al Adams of Kotzebue, served as UA’s federal relations director for more than 12 years. Her retirement provided the opportunity to reduce an executive position on the UA System staff and instead contract for the services.
“Patton Boggs has a tremendous amount of expertise in this area, and while we’re certainly going to miss Martha’s knowledge of Alaska, the university and the legislative process in Washington, we feel confident Patton Boggs will provide the university with excellent service,” said University Relations Vice President Carla Beam.
The 16-campus UA System, which serves nearly 35,000 students across the state, is facing growing competition with numerous other colleges and universities for highly coveted research grants each year through such agencies as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among others. The university’s current level of grant-funded research totals $124 million, up five percent from FY10. Other sources of federal money combined with the research grant awards comprise 17.5 percent of UA’s overall operating budget.
Due to the importance of the federal government to UA’s mission, Beam stressed that it’s critical to present a coordinated approach in Washington across a broad federal front. This allows the university not only to successfully navigate the complexities of the federal government, but also to tap into new opportunities.
In addition to Patton Boggs DC representatives Kevin O’Neill, Jessica Pung and Dana Weekes, “of counsel” to the firm is Bob Evans of Anchorage, a longtime Alaskan very familiar with the University of Alaska.
The year-long contract with Patton Boggs represents about the same annual expenditure as would hiring a full-time UA employee. The decision also follows President Gamble’s commitment to reduce System staff through attrition and consolidate positions where it makes sense.