OPINION: Investing in Arctic research is critical to homeland security

By Dimitri Kusnezov

Updated: 1 hour ago Published: 2 hours ago

Environmental changes are rapidly transforming Alaska and the larger Arctic region. Warming temperatures and glacial melt in the Arctic, for example, will increase economic opportunities and accelerate risks to Arctic residents, commercial activity and national security. As the Arctic grapples with growing challenges, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has an opportunity to take on an expanded role in our work with the state of Alaska. By investing in cutting-edge research and leveraging the expertise of our state partners, we’re advancing security priorities and securing a prosperous future for Alaskan communities.

The new ADAC-ARCTIC Center of Excellence is critical to this effort. In January, DHS announced a $46 million, 10-year cooperative agreement with the University of Alaska, which will lead a consortium of U.S. academic institutions and other partners for the new Center of Excellence. The center will serve as a research hub examining how changes in the regional environment may impact operations and identifying solutions to improve regional resilience. It will also provide a training ground for current and aspiring members of the DHS workforce, who will work with the latest developments and methods in Arctic research relevant to homeland security. Internships and degree programs, as well as other workforce development initiatives, will provide the necessary training, skills, and experience in Arctic operations.

Vital insights gained from academic-led innovative research will help the Department adapt operations to this complex, evolving environment. While the United States Coast Guard has historically been the most active arm of DHS operations in Alaska, growing economic and development opportunities could mean an increased presence for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is responsible for trade enforcement and commerce security. The need for resources from the Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Security Agency to ensure the security of new critical infrastructure projects may increase. And as coastal storms become more frequent and severe, the Federal Emergency Management Agency may need to build upon and expand its work preparing communities for disasters.

Working closely with operational components to tailor research toward the Department’s needs, the Center of Excellence will focus on natural and man-made disasters, ice melt and communications infrastructure. Partnering with local and Indigenous communities will be integral to the long-term success of these research endeavors. State, local, territorial and tribal entities play key roles in helping us foster collaboration with key stakeholders, and they bring firsthand knowledge of, and experience with, the changes and challenges in the Arctic.

As we navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead, it is imperative to continue supporting the research and education initiatives that inform the Homeland Security mission, promoting security and securing prosperity within the Arctic region and for the Alaskan, and American, people. The Department is fortunate to leverage the expertise of the new Center of Excellence to meet this mission.

Dimitri Kusnezov, Ph.D., is the undersecretary for science and technology at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

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