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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC




S. 879. A bill to make improvements to the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984; to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, it has been 20 years since the passage of the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984, a bill sponsored by the former Senator Murkowski. The time has come to make some modifications to reflect the experience we've gained over that time.

I'm pleased to note that the amendments I introducing today are really very modest, an indication that the act--and the presidential commission it created--have functioned quite well. These minimal changes will, I hope, make them function even more smoothly.

First, the chairman of the Arctic Research Commission will be authorized compensation for an additional 30 days of work during the course of a year. That is still far less than the actual number of days demanded by the position, but will help. Second, the bill will allow the Commission to stimulate additional interest in Arctic research by establishing a professional award program for excellence in research. Current and former members of the Commission will not be eligible. Awards will be capped at a symbolic amount of $1,000, but the recognition by each winner's scientific peers will be invaluable. Third and finally, the bill will allow the Commission to reciprocate in the expected manner when foreign delegations host a reception or other event. This provision is limited to no more than two-tenths of a percent of the Commission budget--as with the award program, the value is primarily symbolic, but is nonetheless important.

Although these are small changes, they will help ensure a smoothly functioning Arctic Research Act, and that is important. Although it is not something you hear about on a daily basis, the United States is a leader in the very small circle of Arctic nations, and the Congress plays a major role in ensuring that we remain a leader in this critically important sphere. And make no mistake about it, the Arctic is critical to this country for social, strategic, economic and scientific reasons that are simply too plentiful to enumerate at this time.

The main purposes of the Arctic Research and Policy Act are: 1, to establish national policy for basic and applied research on Arctic resources and materials, physical, biological and health sciences, and social and behavioral sciences; 2, to establish the U.S. Arctic Research Commission to promote Arctic research and to recommend research policies; 3, to designate the National Science Foundation as the lead agency for implementing Arctic research; and, 4, to establish the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee, IARPC, which is responsible for coordinating a multiplicity of Arctic research efforts throughout the government.

As we continue to see evidence of Arctic warming--whether or not we consider it to be human-caused or natural, global or regional--it is of tremendous importance to prepare as best we can. The future may hold both positives--such as increased agricultural production and access to natural resources--and negatives--such as widespread damage to existing infrastructure, flooding, and sweeping social changes. The Arctic Research Commission plays a vital role and deserves our full support.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

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