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The US Arctic Research Commission (USARC) is an independent federal agency created by the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984. It is a presidentially appointed advisory body supported by staff in Washington, DC, and in Anchorage, Alaska. In addition to delivering a biennial report to the President and Congress outlining recommended scientific research goals and objectives for the Arctic, the Commission develops and recommends an integrated national Arctic research policy and builds cooperative links in Arctic research within the federal government, with the State of Alaska, and with international partners. 

Principal Duties

1. Establish the national policy, priorities, and goals necessary to construct a federal program plan for basic and applied scientific research with respect to the Arctic, including natural resources and materials, physical, biological and health sciences, and social and behavioral sciences.

2. Promote Arctic research, recommend Arctic research policy, and communicate our research and policy recommendations to the President and Congress.

3. Work with the National Science and Technology Council (as per Presidential Memorandum and White House guidance) and the National Science Foundation as the lead agency responsible for implementing the Arctic research policy and to support cooperation and collaboration throughout the federal government.

4. Give guidance to the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) to develop national Arctic research projects and a five-year plan to implement those projects.

5. Interact with Arctic residents, international Arctic research programs and organizations, and local institutions, including regional governments, in order to obtain the broadest possible view of Arctic research needs.

It’s critically important for the United States, a world leader in scientific research and development, to intensify its focus on [the Arctic], which for many Americans previously seemed too frozen and remote to be of serious concern.


COMMISSIONERS. USARC’s seven Commissioners, appointed by the President, include four members from academic or research institutions, two members from private industry undertaking commercial activities in the Arctic, and one member from among the Indigenous residents of the Arctic. The Director of the National Science Foundation serves as an ex officio eighth member.

ADVISORS. Advisors are appointed by the Commission on an “as needed” basis to provide information and advice on particular research needs and issues of concern to the Commission, review draft documents of the Commission, and convey information of importance on the various scientific and engineering disciplines they represent.

REPRESENTATIVE. Consistent with USARC’s duty, defined in law, to “cooperate with the Governor of the State of Alaska and with agencies and organizations of that State which the Governor may designate with respect to the formulation of Arctic research policy,” the Governor has traditionally designated a representative to the Commission.

STAFF. The Commission staff consists of an Executive Director and a Communications Specialist in the Commission’s Arlington, Virginia, office and a Deputy Executive Director in the Anchorage, Alaska, office. 


The Commission holds business meetings and conducts public hearings in Alaska and elsewhere to receive input, and makes site visits and field trips to research facilities and projects throughout the Arctic. Major recommendations of the Commission on Arctic research policy, program priorities, and coordination are published in the Commission’s biennial Report on Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research, as well as the Commission’s Special Report series.


USARC is an independent federal agency that receives an annual appropriation. For administrative purposes, the agency’s budget requests and appropriations are through the National Science Foundation. USARC’s request is identified as a line item (“U.S. Arctic Research Commission”) within the “Research and Related Activities” category in the Table of Contents of all NSF budget requests.


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