By law, the US Congress created the United States Arctic Research Commission through the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 (as amended, Public Law 101-609) and in January 1985, President Reagan established the agency through Executive Order 12501. The Commission’s principal duties are (1) to 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) to promote Arctic research, to recommend Arctic research policy, and to communicate our research and policy recommendations to the President and the Congress; (3) to 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) to 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; and (5) to 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.

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.

The Commission staff consists of an Executive Director and a Communications Specialist in the Commission's Arlington, VA office, and a Deputy Executive Director in the Anchorage, AK office. 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. 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.

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. It co-sponsors, with IARPC, the publication of the Journal—Arctic Research of the United States. 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.

Principal Duties

Develop and recommend national Arctic research policy.

Assist the NSTC, NSF and IARPC in establishing a national Arctic Research Plan.

Review federal Arctic research programs and suggest improvements.

Review the President's budget request and report to Congress on the adherence to the Arctic Research Plan.

Facilitate cooperation among federal, state and local governments in advancing Arctic research.

Cooperate with the Governor of Alaska to support Arctic Research policy.

Recommend improved Arctic research logistics planning and support.

Recommend improved sharing and dissemination of Arctic data/information among public and private institutions.

Publish a statement of goals and objectives to guide IARPC.