JUNEAU, Alaska — In the lead-up to this year's elections, The Associated Press plans to publish an occasional list featuring the positions of the highest-profile Alaska U.S. Senate candidates on different issues.
The focus this time is the Arctic.
The White House recently released an implementation plan for its Arctic strategy, which includes broad goals of advancing U.S. security interests, pursuing responsible stewardship and strengthening international cooperation. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said it falls short. She and other critics say the U.S. is lagging behind other Arctic nations in its vision and activity.
The U.S. has aging icebreakers, and officials in Alaska have raised concerns about the level of Coast Guard presence that will be needed as activity in the Arctic increases.
On Feb. 14, Secretary of State John Kerry notified Alaska's U.S. senators, Murkowski and Democrat Mark Begich, that he planned to name a "high-level individual of substantial stature and expertise" to serve as special representative for the Arctic Region. Both had been pressing for an ambassador or envoy to the Arctic. Kerry said he hoped to get input from them in creating the post and finding the right person.
Begich called it an important step in the right direction. Murkowski she wants to ensure the person who holds the job is on par with other nations' Arctic ambassadors and sitting at the table with them.
The campaigns of Begich and Republicans Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell were asked the following questions:
How does the U.S. catch up to other nations when it comes to the Arctic? Can it still catch up? Please be specific in your response.
What role should the state of Alaska play when it comes to the Arctic, including in planning, infrastructure or funding?
— Sen. Mark Begich, first-term incumbent: "As chairman of the Oceans Subcommittee, I've pushed the administration to stop paying lip service to the Arctic and put substantial resources into new icebreakers, a deep-water port, and infrastructure necessary for Alaska to seize the economic opportunities from a warming Arctic.
"I'm pleased the administration recently acted on my proposal to create an Arctic ambassador to elevate our role in the Arctic. I used my seat on the Appropriations Committee to bring the Polar Star icebreaker back in service, build new national security cutters, and launch an Arctic port study. I passed bipartisan legislation to better fund Alaska Coast Guard facilities. Working with Sen. Murkowski and Congressman Young, I will continue to fight for revenue sharing from Alaska's offshore development, ratify the Law of the Sea treaty, and expand the Arctic science program.
"I will use my seniority to ensure Alaskans who call the Arctic home have a voice in these decisions and our state is a leader in Arctic commerce."
— Joe Miller, Republican nominee in the 2010 U.S. Senate race won with a write-in campaign by Murkowski: "As your senator, my Arctic policy will have four strategic objectives. National Integrity: Our sovereignty is under constant attack by elites trying to impose their global agenda on our state. To fight this, one of my top priorities will be defeating the U.N.'s Law of the Sea Treaty. Unlike all my opponents who have expressed support for LOST, I will do everything within my power as a senator to fight this UN power grab in the Arctic. No international bureaucracy should ever be allowed to tax and regulate Alaska businesses, impose 'climate change' and pollution controls on us, and redistribute our technology and wealth.
"National Security: With the balance of world power shifting, the Arctic will play a leading role with respect to national security. Cooling relations with Russia, China, North Korea, and other potentially hostile regimes in East Asia make Alaska absolutely crucial to national defense.
"State Sovereignty: Federal control of Alaska's land and resources, a huge portion of which falls north of the Arctic Circle, should be ceded to the state of Alaska. It's time to gain full recognition of Alaska's status as a sovereign state under our Statehood Compact.
"Resource Development: American innovation has given us the technology to develop our Arctic resources in an environmentally sound and safe way. It's time to get Alaska's resources to market, and I will fight every Obama initiative that interferes with this. Whether oil, gas, coal, precious metals, or rare earth minerals, maximizing Alaska's economic potential depends on responsibly developing our resources without federal interference."
—Dan Sullivan, most recently served as Alaska's Natural Resources commissioner: "First and foremost, Alaska is not just another stake holder in the Arctic. We are the other sovereign at the table, which importantly includes the views of our fellow Alaskans who live in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic boroughs.
"As someone who has worked on high-level Arctic issues as Alaska's Attorney General, DNR Commissioner and as a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, I believe that resources, action, infrastructure, urgency and political will are the five aspects of an American Arctic future. It begins with resources, as America must truly invest necessary funds to intelligently and efficiently make us a global Arctic power, whether through constructing vessels, ports or construction projects.
"But we need urgency by this and future administrations to make it happen beyond memos, more conferences, plans and undefined goals. We need action. If we do not act, if we do not lead, America will see another Sputnik moment as the world passes us by and dims the light we cast on the global arena."
—Mead Treadwell, Alaska's lieutenant governor, elected in 2010; former chairman of the United States Arctic Research Commission: "For over 30 years I have worked to help Alaska take advantage of our Arctic position. Together, we've made many changes: Trade and tourism is now possible with Russia. Our Arctic communities have a stake in our fisheries. Robust research, education, economic and political cooperation exists between Arctic nations.
"With President Bush, we established a policy to make sure America is ready for an accessible Arctic Ocean. But with President Obama, we have fallen behind. While other nations establish deep-water ports, build icebreakers, spill response and Coast Guard bases in the Arctic, our failure to invest in these areas threatens our economic future, our security, our environment, our fisheries and our subsistence hunting at sea. While others explore for oil and gas, Washington can't make up its mind.
"Alaska foresees almost $100 billion in Arctic investments on tap now — with new jobs in energy, shipping and mining. We will invest and attract private investment, but our national government must work with us on development, not against us."