Arctic Security: University of Alaska Anchorage to lead center of excellence

A file photo shows downtown Anchorage Alaska.(Mark Thiessen/AP)

As the Arctic grapples with growing challenges, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has chosen the University of Alaska Anchorage to lead a research consortium that will address pressing issues ranging from cyber threats to environmental issues, and security concerns.

This initiative, known as the ADAC-ARCTIC Center of Excellence (COE) for Homeland Security in the Arctic, will unite diverse U.S. academic institutions and partners to address a spectrum of regional matters.

“We put together a great team that brings together experts across the United States and collaborations across the Polar North,as well as integration with our federal partners like National Labs and others,” Aaron Dotson, vice chancellor for research at the University of Alaska Anchorage, told Eye on the Arctic

“We believe this will bring the center of excellence to a positive start, and life, during its 10 years of operation.”

“Creating the next homeland security workforce”

The award comes with $46-million US in funding over a 10 year period.

“We’ll pick those needs of the agencies we work with, pair those needs with expert researchers and community knowledge and create a product built on applied research,” said Aaron Dotson, vice chancellor for research. (University of Alaska Anchorage)

“The ADAC-ARCTIC COE will affect major DHS mission priorities by focusing on critical research needed to prepare for and implement effective responses to challenges facing the Arctic domain,”  Dimitri Kusnezov, DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology, said in a statement earlier this month.

“The Arctic’s dynamic ecosystem has proven to be an extraordinary challenge, and DHS is fortunate to leverage the expertise of academia to meet operational requirements.”

Dotson says the award is an exciting opportunity to help train the next generation of Arctic experts, with the majority of the funding is allocated towards educational workforce initiatives and, predominantly, research projects. 

“We’ll be creating the next homeland security workforce and creating new tools  that will be used in the Arctic and beyond,” he said.

“A specific aspect that we’re continuing from our prior center is the Arctic Summer internship program where we bring in students from across the US, across discipline areas, and give them that Arctic experience. Many of our Homeland Security workforce, while they serve in that domain, they have little experience in the Arctic, so we provide that experience for them in this setting as well as many other opportunities.”

State hub

Dotson said Anchorage’s proximity to the Coast Guard, Fort Richardson Army Base and Elmendorf Air Force Base, as well as it’s position as a state hub home to the offices of tribal leaders and various government agencies in the state, in addition to the Ted Stevens Arctic Security Studies Center, makes the institution well positioned for coordinating the kind of Arctic research that’s become increasingly necessary. 

“We’re very proud to host this in Anchorage, as the population centre of the state as well as the location of many of our partners,” he said. “And while the work will be performed many places outside of Anchorage, Anchorage creates that home.”

Related stores from around the North: 

Canada: Yukon’s new Arctic security council to help prepare territory for a changing world, CBC News

Finland: Finland invites American troops to bases in Lapland, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: British & Norwegian F-35s scrambled in North to intercept Russian military plane, The Independent Barents Observer

Denmark: Denmark promises increased focus on Arctic as it takes over NORDEFCO chair, Eye on the Arctic

United Kingdom: UK urged to bolster Arctic defense as grey-zone threats rise: report, Eye on the Arctic

United States: First U.S. deep water port for the Arctic to host cruise ships, military, The Associated Press

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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