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Friday, January 16, 2009

Outgoing President Issues Arctic Policy Directive

The National and Homeland Security Directive pertaining to the Arctic can be found here:

A. It is the policy of the United States to:

1. Meet national security and homeland security needs relevant to the Arctic region;
2. Protect the Arctic environment and conserve its biological resources;
3. Ensure that natural resource management and economic development in the region are environmentally sustainable;
4. Strengthen institutions for cooperation among the eight Arctic nations (the United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, and Sweden);
5. Involve the Arctic's indigenous communities in decisions that affect them; and
6. Enhance scientific monitoring and research into local, regional, and global environmental issues.

B. National Security and Homeland Security Interests in the Arctic

1. The United States has broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region and is prepared to operate either independently or in conjunction with other states to safeguard these interests. These interests include such matters as missile defense and early warning; deployment of sea and air systems for strategic sealift, strategic deterrence, maritime presence, and maritime security operations; and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight.
2. The United States also has fundamental homeland security interests in preventing terrorist attacks and mitigating those criminal or hostile acts that could increase the United States vulnerability to terrorism in the Arctic region.
3. The Arctic region is primarily a maritime domain; as such, existing policies and authorities relating to maritime areas continue to apply, including those relating to law enforcement.[1] Human activity in the Arctic region is increasing and is projected to increase further in coming years. This requires the United States to assert a more active and influential national presence to protect its Arctic interests and to project sea power throughout the region.
4. The United States exercises authority in accordance with lawful claims of United States sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in the Arctic region, including sovereignty within the territorial sea, sovereign rights and jurisdiction within the United States exclusive economic zone and on the continental shelf, and appropriate control in the United States contiguous zone.
5. Freedom of the seas is a top national priority. The Northwest Passage is a strait used for international navigation, and the Northern Sea Route includes straits used for international navigation; the regime of transit passage applies to passage through those straits. Preserving the rights and duties relating to navigation and overflight in the Arctic region supports our ability to exercise these rights throughout the world, including through strategic straits.
6. Implementation: In carrying out this policy as it relates to national security and homeland security interests in the Arctic, the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, in coordination with heads of other relevant executive departments and agencies, shall:
1. Develop greater capabilities and capacity, as necessary, to protect United States air, land, and sea borders in the Arctic region;
2. Increase Arctic maritime domain awareness in order to protect maritime commerce, critical infrastructure, and key resources;
3. Preserve the global mobility of United States military and civilian vessels and aircraft throughout the Arctic region;
4. Project a sovereign United States maritime presence in the Arctic in support of essential United States interests; and
5. Encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes in the Arctic region.
D. Extended Continental Shelf and Boundary Issues

1. Defining with certainty the area of the Arctic seabed and subsoil in which the United States may exercise its sovereign rights over natural resources such as oil, natural gas, methane hydrates, minerals, and living marine species is critical to our national interests in energy security, resource management, and environmental protection. The most effective way to achieve international recognition and legal certainty for our extended continental shelf is through the procedure available to States Parties to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
2. The United States and Canada have an unresolved boundary in the Beaufort Sea. United States policy recognizes a boundary in this area based on equidistance. The United States recognizes that the boundary area may contain oil, natural gas, and other resources.
3. The United States and Russia are abiding by the terms of a maritime boundary treaty concluded in 1990, pending its entry into force. The United States is prepared to enter the agreement into force once ratified by the Russian Federation.
UPDATE: More news from Government Executive:
In her confirmation hearing Tuesday, Secretary of State designate Hillary Clinton said, "I believe that the issues of the Arctic are one of those long-term matters that will dramatically affect our commercial, our environmental, and our energy futures," according to an account by KTUU television, the CBS affiliate in Anchorage.

Clinton told Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that resolving boundary disputes with other nations was critical. "We've got to figure out where our boundaries are if people start drilling in areas that are ice-free most of the year, and we don't know where they can and can't drill, and whether we can," Clinton said, according to the KTUU account.

The implications of the new policy are especially great for the Coast Guard, which is responsible for safeguarding U.S. waters. In an interview at the National Press Club early last year, Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen declined to discuss his views about climate change, but said, "All I know is there's water where it didn't use to be, and it's my responsibility to deal with that."

The Coast Guard's aging fleet of icebreaking ships has long been a concern for the service. It has two 30-year-old icebreakers, one of which has been out of service for most of the last year. It also has one ship devoted to scientific research that has some ice-breaking capability.

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