January 21, 2015
The Arctic is “an extraordinary opportunity to work cooperatively, to make significant progress in human relations, and to demonstrate how this kind of situation can be peacefully and thoughtfully developed while avoiding the history of conflict that has attached itself to similar situations in our past.” – Sen. Angus King, June 26, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released the following statement in response to the President’s Executive Order today establishing an Arctic Executive Steering Committee aimed at coordinating Arctic policy across different federal government agencies:
“With emerging commercial transit waterways and valuable natural energy resources, including gas and oil reserves, the Arctic is of increasing strategic importance to the United States,” Senator King said. “I applaud the President for taking action to recognize and prioritize this region through the creation of the Arctic Steering Committee, which will only grow more important as the United States assumes the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council. It’s critical that we coordinate our federal policy accordingly and this is a strong first step in that effort. I look forward to working with the President in the future on issues concerning the Arctic.”
According to information made public by the White House today, the Steering Committee will consist of the heads of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Domestic Policy Council, and the National Security Council.
It will also include the Deputy Secretary from the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security; the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; the Environmental Protection Agency; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the National Science Foundation; the Arctic Research Commission; and the Office of Management and Budget; the Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, or his or her designee; and other agencies or offices as determined appropriate by the Chair. The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Dr. John P. Holdren, will Chair the Committee.
Last March, Senator King traveled to the Arctic with U.S. defense officials where he observed and participated in a Navy training exercise known as Ice Exercise (ICEX) to gain a deeper understanding of U.S. military operations in the region and the Arctic’s strategic value to the United States.
The Arctic Ocean is of increasing strategic importance to the United States. Not only does it border several nations, including the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark, but it also serves as an increasingly important waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, particularly as the accelerating melting of Arctic ice creates the potential to open up global shipping routes, new energy sources, and other commercial interests.
In May 2013, President Obama released a National Strategy for the Arctic Region, which states that the United States has “broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic” and that the U.S. must advance “national security interests, pursue responsible stewardship, and strengthen international collaboration and cooperation, as we work to meet the challenges of rapid climate-driven environmental change” in the region. The Department of Defense released its Arctic Strategy in November 2013 and the U.S. Navy released its Arctic Roadmap 2014-2030 in February 2014 to enhance the Navy’s ability to operate in the Arctic region in the future.