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 the United States has chaired twice:  September 18, 1998 – October 13, 2000 and April 24, 2015 – May 11, 2017.  The major theme of the first chairmanship was human health, and the United States, together with the other seven Arctic States, launched the International Circumpolar Surveillance (ICS), a region-wide disease surveillance system led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The United States also launched the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), the first-ever comprehensive scientific assessment of the effects of climate change in the Arctic, which was completed under Iceland’s chairmanship in 2004. 

The overarching theme of the second United States chairmanship was “One Arctic:  Shared Opportunities, Challenges and Responsibilities” with a number of projects and initiatives organized under three sub-thematic areas:  Arctic Ocean Safety, Security and Stewardship; Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change; and, Improving Economic and Living Conditions.  The United States and Russia co-chaired a special task force on science cooperation under the auspices of the Arctic Council that led to the conclusion of a legally-binding “Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation.”  The foreign ministers signed this agreement at the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting on May 11, 2017 in Fairbanks, Alaska.  Other major outcomes of the second United States chairmanship included the Telecommunications Infrastructure in the Arctic:  A Circumpolar Assessment; an update to the Assessment of Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA); a Summary of Progress and Recommendations on black carbon and methane emission reductions; the State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report (SAMBR); an Arctic Invasive Alien Species (ARIAS) Strategy and Action Plan; and an Arctic Resilience Action Framework (ARAF).  The Fairbanks Ministerial was the first-ever gathering of the foreign ministers from all eight Arctic States.

Working Group Representatives

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

  • Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) – Environmental Protection Agency
  • Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) – Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) – Department of Interior/Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Emergency Prevention Preparedness and Response (EPPR) – Department of Homeland Security/United States Coast Guard
  • Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) – Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) – Department of State/Bureau of Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs (OES)



U.S. Department of State OES/OPA Arctic

State of Alaska - http://alaska.gov/

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) - https://www.arcus.org/search-program

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

National Science Foundation/Office of Polar Programs - https://www.nsf.gov/div/index.jsp?div=OPP


U.S. Arctic Strategy (May 2013)

U.S. Arctic Region Policy (2009)


Interim Senior Arctic Official

Meredith Rubin


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


+1 (202) 485 1540

Contact for press inquiries

+1 (202) 485 1540