During a recent event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, officials from the Obama Administration discussed a new Executive Order that seeks to enhance cooperation amongst the multiple federal agencies charged with implementing Arctic policy. Dr. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, reviewed in his presentation the alphabet soup of federal offices charged with developing and implementing programs aimed to further U.S. objectives in the Arctic. As his graphic shows, several agencies currently coordinate with other agencies – though it’s unclear what redundancies and gaps in policy implementation may exist given the complicated web of interactions.
The Executive Order also calls for enhanced cooperation with the State of Alaska, local and tribal governments – key voices that are clearly absent from the current matrix of Arctic engagements. Tommy Beaudreau, chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and a native of Alaska, acknowledged that Alaskans are very concerned about their role in Arctic policy-making. Alaska makes the United States an Arctic nation after all, and as such many Alaskan leaders have argued for a seat at the table when it comes to federal decisions on Arctic policy. Dr. Holdren underscored that President Obama has heard concerns from Alaska Governor Walker regarding the state’s desire to be more involved in decisions on Arctic policy, and Dr. Holdren believes that the president takes the issue very seriously.