Homeland Security funds new Arctic security research center at UAA

Two men in suits break an ice sculpture with an ice pick
UAA Director of Applied Environmental Research Center Jeff Libby assists DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dimitri Kusnezov in breaking an ice ribbon at the opening of the new ADAC-ARCTIC Center of Excellence in Anchorage on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

The Department of Homeland Security recently selected the University of Alaska Anchorage to house a new research facility focused on Arctic security. 

The Arctic Domain Awareness Center is the newest of nine Homeland Security “Centers of Excellence” at universities across the country. Officials marked the start of the research partnership at the UAA Library on Tuesday by cracking a ribbon made of ice with an ice axe.

The term climate change was never explicitly mentioned during the ceremony, but it is at the center of Arctic geopolitics. Unprecedented sea ice loss is creating challenges for Arctic communities, but also opening up new shipping lanes and opportunities for Arctic tourism.

DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dmitri Kusnezov said these changes require investigation. 

“What does coastal erosion mean if the sea ice is no longer there? What happens when the tourists boats are coming and landing here and there? What happens when fishing boats or commerce goes from Asia to Europe?” Kusnezov said. “All of these problems are real, and we have to start thinking about it.”

Officials also stressed the importance of partnering with Indigenous communities in research efforts. 

“It’s essential that the Department of Homeland Security, through [ADAC], builds those relationships to really understand what the context is in rural Alaska, what it looks like for Alaska Native communities for the things that they’re experiencing right now,” said Liz Qaulluq Cravalho, vice president of lands for NANA Regional Corporation.  

The center is slated to receive $46 million in federal funding over a 10-year period. It will be located in an existing university building just north of the UAA campus. 

Kavitha George is Alaska Public Media’s climate change reporter. Reach her at kgeorge@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Kavitha here.

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