GAO report criticizes Arctic strategy

The United States is poised to take over chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, but a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that agencies may not be ready to do it.

In essence, while the US Government has plenty of cooks in the kitchen managing various Arctic roles and programs, the Department of State lacks an organized way of tracking these programs or making sure that there is alignment with and communication of programs and projects being pursued in support of Arctic Council initiatives (there are something like 80 ongoing project through the Arctic council) and those agency initiatives pursing similar goals.

The political angle (there always is one) centers on whether the US should appoint a US Arctic Ambassador, or similar, to represent US Arctic interests. The Department of State has promised to appoint someone, an there has been legislation introduced in the House of Representatives to establish a US Ambassador at large. However, decisive motion is lacking.

As the US gears up for its role as chair, project alignment is one of several obstacles the administration will face, not the least of which are ascension to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and addressing growing issues of Arctic emergency response (oil spills and search and rescue).

Stay tuned.

The GAO report was requested by Senator Murkowski of Alaska, who has been very vocal on Arctic issues.

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