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The Arctic is the next great frontier for economic development.
Oil companies say so. The maritime industry sees it. Alaska's congressional delegation has been beating the drum about it: The nation has to be ready to compete in the Arctic.
But movement in the right direction is underway.
As a result of Sen. Lisa Murkowski's criticism of the Obama Administration's apparent lack of attention to the Arctic, Secretary of State John Kerry has announced his intention to appoint a special representative for the Arctic region.
The representative will be responsible for overseeing and coordinating Arctic efforts for the federal government, allowing for agencies and departments to work in tandem on Arctic interests.
Up until now, Murkowski, who is considered an Arctic expert by her congressional colleagues, says: "The White House's lackluster efforts to seize the opportunities opening up in the Arctic have been a national embarrassment.
"The other Arctic nations are proceeding full steam ahead and even non-Arctic nations like Italy, India, China and South Korea are all making an Arctic push — while America slips further behind."
Seven of the eight Arctic nations have an Arctic ambassador. Whether the United State's representative will be on par with an ambassador was unclear, but Murkowski has promised to seek clarification, and likely will continue to encourage an ambassadorship.
Not only has Murkowski been working to advance an Arctic agenda for the United States, but Congressman Don Young has as well.
Young has pushed for the U.S. Coast Guard to determine the feasibility of reactivating its icebreaker Polar Sea, which currently is out of service. If the Polar Sea isn't viable, the 2014 bill to fund the Coast Guard would require an analysis of whether the nation should lease or buy new icebreakers.
"Only one third of our already inadequate (icebreaking) fleet is in service," Young says. "As activity in the Arctic increases, it's imperative for the U.S. to have every available option on the table. We can't continue this indefinite standstill . . . whether that means building new icebreakers or finding leasing options in the private sector."
It's not just Alaska with a vested interest in what happens in the Arctic; it's a national issue, and with the United States set to assume the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, it should elevate the importance of addressing Arctic issues at home in advance of that role.
Naming an Arctic ambassador and securing an icebreaker fleet are paramount among those issues.