Murkowski: US falling behind in Arctic

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) says the U.S. is not paying enough attention to the Arctic, leaving other nations scrambling to stake claim to resources the region could offer.

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While the U.S. is poised to take over the two-year rotating chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council in 2015, it still lags behind the other seven nations: Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Canada and Denmark, The Associated Press reports.

"On par with the other Arctic nations, we are behind — behind in our thinking, behind in our vision," Murkowski told the AP. "We lack basic infrastructure, basic funding commitments to be prepared for the level of activity expected in the Arctic."

When meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry before Thanksgiving, Murkowski suggested State name a U.S. ambassador, or envoy, to the Arctic. The ambassador would coordinate work on the Arctic from more than 20 federal agencies and take the lead on increasing U.S. activities.

But there's more to be done, according to Murkowski. She wants to the public to stop seeing the Arctic as just Alaska's problem.

"People in Iowa and New Hampshire need to view the U.S. as an Arctic nation. Otherwise when you talk about funding, you're never going to get there," Murkowski said.

She added that even non-Arctic nations are engaged: "India and China are investing in icebreakers."

The problem with the U.S. plans rolled out by the administration and federal agencies, experts say, is that they are not precise.

"The problem with all of these strategies is that they are absolutely silent on budget issues," said Heather Conley of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.