U.S. unfocused in Arctic, says GAO report

Yereth RosenAlaska Dispatch News

The U.S. Department of State and other government agencies responsible for Arctic issues need to sharpen their focus and tighten their procedures to prepare for U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council, says a new report released Monday by the General Accountability Office. Lack of clear procedures to set priorities and track progress means that many worthy Arctic policy goals, though articulated, are not being accomplished, the GAO report said. That is the case at the Arctic Council as well, the GAO report said. State Department officials interviewed for the report said the council "has produced valuable work, but the recommendations have not historically produced actions leading to measurable results in addressing Arctic issues, " the report said. To prepare for U.S. leadership of the council, scheduled to start in 2015, the State Department needs to develop a formal strategy that is coordinated with other government agencies, a formal process for tracking progress in achieving Arctic goals and, with the help of the other Arctic nations, establish guidelines for making and ranking policy recommendations. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the officials who requested the report, said it show that the U.S. government is running late with its Arctic planning. "This is one of the reasons we need an Arctic Ambassador with the authority to make decisions, and coordinate and oversee projects as we're at this crucial juncture," she said in a statement.

Reach Yereth Rosen at yereth@alaskadispatch.com