IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
February 11, 2013
Mr. Begich introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations
To amend the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 to establish a United States Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs.
This Act may be cited as
United States Ambassador at Large
for Arctic Affairs Act of 2013
United States Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs
Title I of the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 (22 U.S.C. 2651a et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:
United States Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs
Congress finds that—
the United States is an Arctic nation with—
an approximately 700-mile border on the Arctic Ocean;
more than 100,000,000 acres of land above the Arctic Circle; and
an even broader area defined as Arctic by temperature that includes the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands;
the Arctic region of the United States—
is known to the
indigenous population as Inuvikput, or the
place where we
is home to an indigenous population that has subsisted for millennia on the abundance of marine mammals, fish, and wildlife, many species of which are unique to the Arctic region;
has produced more than 16,000,000,000 barrels of oil, and, according to the United States Geological Service, holds 30,000,000,000 barrels of oil and 220 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, making the region fundamentally important to the interest of the United States;
since 1959, temperatures in the Arctic region of the United States have warmed by 3 to 4 degrees Celsius, a rate of increase more than twice the global average;
the Arctic ice pack is rapidly diminishing and thinning, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates the Arctic Ocean may be ice free during the summer months in as few as 30 years;
these changes are having a significant impact on the communities and ecosystems of the indigenous people of the Arctic, and the marine mammals, fish, and wildlife upon which the indigenous population depends;
these changes are opening new portions of the Arctic continental shelf of the United States to possible development for offshore oil and gas, commercial fishing, marine shipping, and tourism;
increased industrial development and commercial activity in the Arctic region requires a heightened diplomatic presence to address important issues that involve the United States and Pan-Arctic countries or the Arctic Council;
the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum established in 1996, includes representatives from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States and 6 Permanent Participants who represent the indigenous peoples of the Arctic;
the Arctic Council—
is committed to the well-being of the people who live in the Arctic region;
recognizes the special relationship indigenous people have with the Arctic region;
acknowledges the unique contributions indigenous communities make to the Arctic region;
is committed to sustainable economic and social development in the Arctic region, improving health conditions in the Arctic region, and fostering cultural well-being in the Arctic region; and
is committed to protecting the Arctic environment, including Arctic ecosystems, biodiversity in the Arctic region, and the conservation and sustainable use of Arctic natural resources;
other Arctic countries are pursuing claims for Arctic seabed resources under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, signed at Montego Bay, Jamaica, December 10, 1982;
the North Pacific Fishery Management Council recommends closing commercial fishing operations in the Arctic waters of the United States until sustainable fishing is scientifically determined, an action that will only be effective with cooperation from neighboring Arctic countries;
increased commercial activity in the Arctic region raises concerns regarding national security, environmental protection, and the cultural and subsistence needs of indigenous communities;
the United States seeks to maintain, and further develop, a constructive and cordial relationship with the members of the Arctic Council; and
the United States has not established an Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs, who would enhance the ability of the United States to respond quickly and appropriately to issues of mutual interest to the Arctic Council and Arctic countries generally.
There is established within the Department of State an Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs (referred to in this section as the Ambassador), appointed under subsection (c).
The Ambassador shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Subject to the direction of the President and the Secretary of State, the Ambassador is authorized to represent the United States in matters and cases relevant to Arctic affairs in—
contacts with foreign governments, intergovernmental organizations, and specialized agencies of the United Nations, the Arctic Council, and other international organizations of which the United States is a member; and
multilateral conferences and meetings relating to Arctic affairs.
The Ambassador shall be a principal adviser to the President and the Secretary of State regarding matters affecting Arctic affairs and shall make recommendations regarding the policies of the United States relating to Arctic affairs.
The Secretary of State shall provide the Ambassador with such funds as may be necessary to carry out the duties described in subsection (d).