United States and the Arctic region

The United States of America became an Arctic nation upon the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.  We have varied and compelling interests in the Arctic such as national and homeland security, environmental protection, sustainable development, promoting cooperation and collaboration with the other seven Arctic nations, involving indigenous Alaskans in decisions that affect them, and supporting and promoting scientific research across the region.  The U.S. Department of State leads the development of U.S. Arctic policy and works with other U.S. government agencies in promoting and implementing our policy objectives.  The United States Arctic policy was most recently updated in May of 2013 by President Barack Obama. This policy supports the National Security Presidential Directive-66 / Homeland Security Presidential Directive-25 signed by President George W. Bush in 2009.

The primary forum through which the United States engages in Arctic diplomacy is the Arctic Council, which it chaired from 1998 – 2000.   The United States promoted human health as a major theme of its first chairmanship by, among other things, launching the International Circumpolar Surveillance, a multilateral disease surveillance project led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  We also initiated the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), the first ever comprehensive scientific assessment of the effects of climate change in the Arctic, which was completed in 2004.  The next United States chairmanship will be 2015 – 2017.

Working Groups / Task Forces

The United States agency leads for the Working Groups of the Arctic Council are as follows:

  • Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) – Executive Office of the President/Global Change Research Program
  • Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) – Environmental Protection Agency
  • Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) – Department of Commerce/National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration
  • Emergency Prevention Preparedness and Response (EPPR) – Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration
  • Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) – Department of Interior/Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) – Department of State



U.S. Department of State OES/OPA Arctic - http://www.state.gov/e/oes/ocns/opa/arc/index.htm

State of Alaska - http://alaska.gov/

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) - http://www.arcus.org/search/index.php 

US Arctic Research Commission - http://www.arctic.gov/  

Arctic Science Portal - http://www.arctic.gov/portal/


U.S. Arctic Strategy (May 2013) 


Senior Arctic Official

Julia L. Gourley


U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs


+1 (202) 485 2875

Contact for press inquiries

+1 (202) 485-2875