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Alaska Lawmakers Welcome Papp, Ulmer to Arctic Policy Posts

Published On: Jul 16 2014 04:39:12 PM AKDT
Alaska Lawmakers Welcome Papp, Ulmer to Arctic Policy Posts

An array of prominent Alaska lawmakers is welcoming the federal appointment of two familiar names to prominent Arctic policy positions.

The U.S. State Department’s appointment of the first U.S. Special Representative to the Arctic, former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., was announced Wednesday. Former Lt. Gov. and University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Fran Ulmer, currently serving as chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, was named a special advisor to the department on Arctic science and policy.

Both of Alaska’s U.S. senators say they have been pushing hard for the establishment of an ambassador-level Arctic representative in general, and Papp’s selection in particular. In a Wednesday statement, Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she has repeatedly brought up Papp’s name with Secretary of State John Kerry since the job became available.

“With a dynamic region like the Arctic, you cannot have a Beltway bureaucrat dropped in for ‘on the job training,’ you need an individual with credibility and experience in the region and a proven ability to work with communities in the U.S. and circumpolar Arctic,” Murkowski said. “Admiral Papp’s knowledge base of the Arctic is as vast as the region itself.”

In a matching statement, Sen. Mark Begich says he has been asking for the staffing of such a position since his election nearly six years ago.

“I’ve worked with Admiral Papp for years, traveled to America’s Arctic with him and know he will be effective in standing up for American interests in this increasingly important part of the world,” Begich said. “One of his first actions needs to be a visit to America’s only Arctic state of Alaska to see first-hand the impacts, opportunities and challenges of climate change in the Arctic.”

Rep. Don Young says Papp’s appointment is particularly timely for U.S. issues now coming before the council.

“I have proudly worked with Admiral Papp for years on behalf of Alaska and the Arctic during his time as Coast Guard Commandant and welcome him to the job with open arms,” Young said. “I believe he holds the know-how and understanding to begin making headway on these vital American issues, especially as we prepare to take over the Arctic Council chairmanship in 2015.”

In Alaska, a statement from Gov. Sean Parnell described Papp as “uniquely qualified and well-suited for this post.”

“His service as Commandant of the Coast Guard and the time he invested in Alaska, America’s gateway to the Arctic, provide him with a strong grasp of the realities facing the modern Arctic, as well as the opportunities before us,” Parnell said. “I look forward to Admiral Papp, as Special Representative, strengthening the federal government’s partnership with the State of Alaska on Arctic issues.”

Papp’s position, which has been in the works at the State Department since February, fills what Begich and Murkowski say is an increasingly important position intended to liaise with the intergovernmental Arctic Council, with even non-Arctic nations like Singapore seeking representation on the council due to their Arctic shipping interests.

The two state lawmakers co-chairing the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission -- Sen. Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage) and Rep. Bob Herron (D-Bethel) -- joined in hailing the ambassadorial appointment, but reserved some of their brightest praise for Ulmer.

“Fran Ulmer is a great choice to be named Special Advisor on Arctic Science and Policy,” McGuire said. “Ulmer is great to work with, has been invaluable to the AAPC’s work, and as an Alaskan, I know she will put Alaskans first. Research is so important to Alaska’s Arctic, the issues so diverse, and no one understands these better than Fran.”

Young also congratulated Ulmer on her new post, saying she would serve Kerry well.

“Fran has always been a strong advocate for Alaskan issues and causes, and I know she’ll continue to do so as an advisor to the Secretary of State,” Young said.

Papp stepped down from the Coast Guard’s top job on May 30.