Letters to Congress


I am pleased to forward the second five-year Arctic Research Plan produced by the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC). Covering the period 2017-2021, the plan is one of IARPC’s responsibilities described in the Arctic Research Policy Act of 1984 (15 U.S.C. § 4108).

The Arctic environment is undergoing rapid transitions as air temperatures increase, sea ice and land ice diminish, terrestrial snow cover declines, and permafrost warms and thaws. These physical changes have tremendous implications for marine and terrestrial ecosystems, human health and well-being, national security, transportation, and economic development in the Arctic and beyond. The United States, the other Arctic nations, and those non-Arctic nations with substantial Arctic research activities need strong, coordinated research efforts to understand and forecast changes in the Arctic.

Responding to this need, ten Federal agencies, departments, and offices collaborated to develop this plan, which calls for strong interagency communication, coordination, and collaboration within the framework of the National Science and Technology Council. The IARPC staff also consulted with collaborators in the State of Alaska, local communities, indigenous organizations, non-governmental organizations, and the academic community to ensure that the interests and needs of all stakeholders are addressed appropriately in this research plan.

Toward that end, and in furtherance of goals developed by the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, this plan focuses on those research activities that would be substantially enhanced by multi-agency collaboration. Many important investigations outside the scope of this plan will continue to be conducted within individual agencies or through other interagency collaborations.

I appreciate your support as this Administration works to ensure that the Nation’s research efforts in the Arctic are broadly coordinated across the full spectrum of Federal agencies and interests.


John P. Holdren
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy


December, 2016


As required by 15 U.S.C. §4108, I am pleased to transmit this 2017-2021 plan of the U.S. Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) that enhances and strengthens the U. S. federal Arctic research enterprise. Development of this 5-year plan entailed consultations with 14 federal agencies, the State of Alaska, local and indigenous organizations, the academic community and the broader public. The plan is broad in scope, but even so, does not represent the full breath of the US Government research on the Arctic. Each agency will continue to support additional research activities to meet its respective mission.

The changing Arctic presents challenges and opportunities for society both in the Arctic and globally.  A diminishing sea ice cover is transforming ecosystems and altering subsistence activities as well as circumstances for commercial shipping, resource extraction and tourism. Glacial melt is contributing to sea level rise that can impact extensive coastal infrastructure and populations around the world. Thawing permafrost is impacting northern infrastructure and has potentially significant implications for the global carbon cycle. Changes in Arctic snow and ice covers may be linked to changing weather patterns in the lower latitudes of the northern hemisphere. The ability to understand and predict the future course of such changes is vital to the economy and security of the U.S. as an Arctic nation.

This plan builds on the experience with the successful format of the 2013-2017 IARPC 5-year plan. The focus is on priority Arctic research areas best addressed though interagency partnerships to ensure effectiveness and efficiency. The approach to the plan is purposefully dynamic in order to keep pace with observed changes. In particular, performance elements of the plan are intended to cover the next two years. Towards the end of that period, IARPC will make adjustments to respond to new knowledge and emergent needs.

Concurrently, IARPC will also continue to develop themes and ideas that arose during development of this plan. For example, IARPC wishes to engage northern communities more fully in all stages of research endeavors to identify and co-produce much needed knowledge to inform real-world issues such as coastal resilience and socio-economic trajectories. IARPC will also explore strengthening the linkage between Arctic research and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education in order to excite and motivate students and the future STEM workforce both in Arctic communities and throughout our nation.

I wish to acknowledge the contributions of all involved in producing this plan and, as Chair of IARPC, look forward to leading its successful and productive implementation in the years ahead.


France A. Córdova

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