September 24, 2021

President Biden Appoints New USARC Chair and Commissioners

On September 24, 2021, President Biden appointed commissioners to the US Arctic Research Commission and designated a new chair. These appointments coincide with other Arctic-related actions announced by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Mr. David Kennedy, appointed by President Trump in December 2020, and designated chair by President Biden in March 2021, was reappointed to a second term on the commission, but not as chair as Kennedy had originally requested that role on an interim basis.

The newly designated chair is Alaskan Dr. Michael Sfraga, the founding director of the Polar Institute and the director of the Global Risk and Resilience Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. Dr. Sfraga previously served the University of Alaska, for over thirty years, in various academic, administrative, and executive positions, including vice chancellor, associate vice president, faculty member, department chair, and associate dean.

In response to President Biden’s announcement, Kennedy, a former NOAA official, and resident of Madison, Virginia, said, “I am honored to be reappointed to a second term and was grateful for the opportunity to serve as interim chair. I look forward to transitioning with Mike and working with the new commissioners and staff to fulfill the commission’s duties to advance Arctic research. Specifically, I am eager to move out on the commission’s next report to the President and Congress on the goals and objectives for Arctic research.”

The five new commissioners are:

• Dr. Michael Sfraga, of Fairbanks, Alaska
• Ms. Elizabeth Qaulluq Cravalho, of Kotzebue, Alaska
• Dr. Mark Myers, of Anchorage, Alaska
• Dr. Jacqueline Richter-Menge, of Lyme, New Hampshire
• Ms. Deborah Vo, of Anchorage, Alaska

A vacancy currently exists on the commission, for a representative from the research community, as former commissioner Major General Randy (“Church”) Kee, USAF (ret.) resigned his position, effective September 10, 2021, to accept the federal position of Senior Advisor, Arctic Security Affairs, in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). He will assist with establishing the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies, the DoD’s sixth and newest regional center.

In an ex officio non-voting capacity, Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, the Director of the National Science Foundation, remains the eighth and final member of the commission.

Dr. Sfraga, who will serve on the commission in one of the four research slots, will remain a senior member of the Polar Institute, where he will focus his scholarship and public speaking on Arctic policy.

In response to the appointment, Sfraga said, “I am grateful to President Biden for selecting me to serve in this important position. As the Arctic region grows in global importance, the commission will play a consequential role in informing and shaping US Arctic research efforts and policies. The commission, along with international partners, will help meet the challenges presented by a region undergoing rapid change. I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners and staff to advance this important mission. I thank David Kennedy for his leadership as chair, and I am pleased that we will continue to have the benefit of his expertise moving forward.”

Ms. Cravalho, who served on the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission, will hold one of the two slots reserved for representatives from private industry. She is the vice president of lands at the NANA Regional Corporation, an Alaska Native Corporation owned by the Iñupiat people of Northwest Alaska.

Dr. Myers, a geologist, appointed by President George W. Bush as the 14th director of the U.S. Geological Survey, and who has worked for the State of Alaska in a variety of positions, is currently a private contractor, and is the other industry representative.

Dr. Richter-Menge, an expert in Arctic sea ice, is serving a second term as a research representative, as she was previously appointed to the USARC in 2016, by President Obama.

Ms. Vo, a program officer at the Rasmuson Foundation and a former special assistant for rural affairs to Senator Lisa Murkowski, is the commission’s new Indigenous representative.

The USARC’s mission is to develop and recommend US Arctic research policy to the President and Congress and to build cooperative links in Arctic research within the federal government, with Arctic residents, the State of Alaska, researchers, and international partners. Visit the USARC at www.arctic.gov and subscribe to our daily electronic newsletter, the “Arctic Update,” which provides useful information about recent events, upcoming conferences, research initiatives, and news.