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"Science, Services, and Stewardship:
Leadership Opportunities in the Arctic"

Hedrick Fellow Recognition
U.S. Coast Guard “Leadership in the Arctic” Symposium
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
New London, Connecticut

Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce
for Oceans & Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator

As Delivered

April 12, 2012

Admiral Stosz, distinguished colleagues, cadets and friends,  I am deeply honored to be recognized as a Hedrick Fellow and to be part of such a distinguished group of fellows. 

And what a treat it has been to spend time with cadets today, both the women's leadership council and cadets presenting posters.

The Hedricks established this fellowship because they believed that everyone in the academy should have an equal opportunity to learn from leaders. 

As you might have gleaned from looking at my pin depicting the yacht Reliance and my scarf showcasing life in oceans, I’d like to talk about ships and oceans tonight.

Although I grew up in Denver, far from the ocean, I had the good fortune to be a Mariner Girl Scout.  We honed our skills sailing on lakes in Colorado and later in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. 

Like many of you, I relish being on or in the water. Doing so renews my soul, challenges my skills, provides opportunities for reflection, and reminds me of how vast the largest ecosystems on our planet really are. 

I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the USCGC Eagle while I was here, but I understand she is in New Orleans right now.  However, the Women's leadership council presented me with Admiral Papp's book about her history, so I'm delighted.

I know how fond the Commandant is of the Eagle, and I share his love of Patrick O’Brien’s novels.  But I hasten to add that I am no where as fanatical about Aubrey and Maturin as Admiral Papp is!

But as much as I love those kinds of ships, the ones I want to focus on tonight are ships of a different sort – leader-ship, partner-ship and steward-ship.

Go ahead and groan if you like!  With apologies for the slight mis-direction and a little word-play and fun, let me begin with leadership.

I’m deeply privileged to lead a spectacular oceanic and atmospheric agency, NOAA, and I’ve had the immense good fortune to work closely with many of your visionary leaders, at multiple levels, in the Coast Guard. 

Building on the close partnerships forged across the years and during crises big and small, and reflecting our complementary missions and mutual dependence, NOAA and the Coast Guard continue to grow closer, strengthen one another, and serve the nation. 

I’ve witnessed how very important leadership is within and across agencies like ours and I’ve seen the power of leaders working together to effect meaningful change.

It is particularly appropriate that the theme of the conference today and tomorrow is ‘Leadership for the Arctic’. 

Tonight my focus will be on leadership in general and in the Arctic, in particular--leadership through partnership and leadership for stewardship. 

My message is simple. You cadets--the leaders of tomorrow—and you, Arctic experts in the room, all have a golden opportunity to be gifted leaders, to do what gifted leaders do: listen, anticipate, inspire, and create order out of chaos.  

 Your power lies in your ability to craft a vision and create the momentum, partnerships and will to tackle daunting challenges and succeed.

We live in a world where partnerships are essential for success.  We also live in a world where human dependence upon the natural world is too often ignored.  

NOAA’s and the Coast Guard’s already strong partnerships position us well to work with each other and like-minded agencies and nations to tackle big Arctic challenges.   

The Coast Guard and NOAA are strong partners. We have dozens of formal agreements and memoranda of understanding, but our real collective strength lies in the synergy between our missions, our mutual appreciation for science-based action, the good chemistry between leaders and our willingness to embrace challenges.

The Coast Guard’s mission of maritime safety, maritime security, and maritime stewardship is a great complement to NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship of the nation’s weather, oceans and coasts.

NOAA relies on the Coast Guard for enforcement of regulations in fisheries and in our National Marine Sanctuaries, maritime safety, rescue operations, emergency services, removal of marine debris, partnerships in science, and safety on our fisheries observer vessels.

In turn, the Coast Guard relies on NOAA for marine weather forecasts, water forecasts, sea ice forecasts, disaster warnings, charting, navigation warnings, digital GPS.  Our satellites pick up signals from distressed vessels or individuals, then, we relay them to you for your search and rescue operations.   

We work closely together in responding to oil spills, hurricanes and tsunamis, dealing with marine debris, protecting Right whales and other endangered species and stock assessments.

We recognize that partnering in our many areas of mutual interest is a win for our respective missions, a win in efficiencies of government, and a win for the nation.

Together we are committed to protecting life and property, enabling commerce and being good stewards.

Our partnership was on full display during the Deepwater Horizon crisis where leaders at multiple levels within each agency worked closely together to respond effectively, using science, common sense, experience, and the trust that springs from deep respect for each other as our guides.  Those leaders listened, anticipated, inspired and created order out of chaos. 

Now, I would be the first to tell you that in the heat of those moments, hours, days and months, in the midst of the ever-changing flurry of activity and uncertainty, the reality was far from easy.  But analyses and assessments of the events are vindicating the science and praising our efforts during the chaos.

One secret that you should appreciate is that many of the leadership partnerships that enabled trust and close working relationships during Deepwater horizon were forged in the two years prior to the spill through collaboration on the President’s Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force. 

The USCG and NOAA worked together to bring valuable insight, ideas and skills to the work of the Task Force.  Teaming up with other like-minded agencies and departments, we proposed a vision for ocean stewardship that is now codified in the National Ocean Policy.  Through that NOP, the President has declared that ‘healthy oceans matter’ and that agencies are to work together and with local, state, regional and tribal governments to achieve the goals he articulated in the NOP.

 The Nation has a Clean Air Act and a Clean Water Act, but until the National Ocean Policy, it did not have clear direction about our collective goals for oceans.  Some 26 different federal agencies and offices oversee activities that affect oceans.  Over 140 federal laws regulate these activities.  The President directed his Ocean Policy Task Force to propose ways to harmonize agency actions and regulations, to work with local communities and regions to create order out of chaos.  

The Task Force realized that maintaining or recovering the wealth of benefits people receive from healthy oceans and coasts requires science-based, holistic, ecosystem-based approaches.  And that is precisely the approach articulated in the National Ocean Policy.

Nowhere is the need for partnerships, stewardship and leadership seen more keenly than in the Arctic.   

Today, we face the considerable challenge of doing right in the Arctic – right by native peoples, right by citizens of the world, and right by the Arctic ecosystems that provide bountiful seafood, breathtaking beauty and wildlife, regulation of weather and climate, economic opportunities, and unique cultures of its peoples. 

Here in the United States, Alaska is known as the seafood basket of the nation.  Fifty (50) percent of the nation’s seafood comes from Alaska, and Alaska’s fisheries bring in sustainable catches.  Last summer alone, 1.56 million people visited Alaska. 23 native languages are spoken across Alaska’s indigenous peoples.  It’s a land of riches and opportunity.

But the Arctic is  changing  in  dramatic  ways. 

When  I  was  in  Barrow  in  2009,  I  stood  on  the  shores  of  the  Arctic  Ocean  with  the  local  children  and  village  elders  who,  mouths  agape,  watched  big  surf  come  crashing  onto  shore.    The  elders  told  me  that  until recently, big surf in Barrow didn’t exist because offshore sea  ice  offshore  would  prevent  the  buildup  of  large  waves  travelling  across  the  open  water.   

We visited nearby grave sites that were being  relocated because ancient burial grounds are quickly disappearing under the pounding of waves and surf.     

On  the  west  coast  of  Alaska,  entire  villages  such  as  Shishmaref  are  facing  evacuation  and  relocation  as  the  combination  of  melting  sea  ice,  thawing  permafrost,  and  higher  storm  surges  undermine  the  towns’  infrastructure.   

Across  the  Arctic,  Inuit  in  Greenland  described  to  me  increasing  numbers  of  tragic  disasters,  often  involving  loss  of  family  and  friends  who  went  out  hunting  and  never  returned.    They  explained  that  sea  ice  and  weather  conditions  are  changing  so  rapidly  that  the  familiar  signs  of  danger  no  longer  apply.  

The  native  peoples  of  the  Arctic  have  amassed  a  wealth  of  knowledge  that  has  served  them  in  good  stead  over  the generations,  allowing  their  cultures  and  communities  to flourish.   

They  have  attuned  themselves  to  the  environment,  and  have  adapted  to  many  changes  over  the  centuries.    Now, however,  their  environment  is  transforming  so  rapidly  that  it  is  difficult  to  keep  up  with  the  changes.  

Their experiences are borne out by data.  

Sea ice and ocean observations over the past decade (2001-2011) suggest that the Arctic Ocean climate has reached a new state with characteristics different than those observed previously.

The new ocean climate is characterized by less sea ice (both extent and thickness) and a warmer and fresher upper ocean than in 1979-2000.

The persistence of these changes is having a measureable impact on Arctic marine and terrestrial ecosystems and people.

In the Bering Sea, ocean acidification throughout the water column is causing seasonal CaCO3 mineral suppression in some areas.

The effects of ocean acidification in the Chukchi Sea, induced by the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 over the last century, are amplified by high rates of summertime phytoplankton primary production, which leads to more corrosive sub-surface waters.

We can’t turn back the clock.  And we can’t simply flip a switch to stop anything more from happening.  But we can Listen.   Anticipate.   Inspire.   And create order out of chaos.  


A stellar example of this precautionary approach comes from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council who decided in 2009 to prohibit expansion of commercial fishing in U.S. federal waters in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas until the scientific basis for fisheries management decisions could be established. 

As sea ice retreats, the Arctic becomes more accessible. With greater access comes the call for information, readiness, response and assistance.

The Coast Guard and Navy feel increased pressure to maintain a "response-ready" presence for Arctic safety and security.  Requests from native communities come in asking for help with relocating entire villages or burial grounds slipping into the sea.  Where will my food come from if whales, seals and fish populations wane?  How can we get more accurate weather and water forecasts?

An open Arctic trade route brings concerns about accurate navigation charts, weather and disaster forecasts, aviation forecasts, and the capacity to respond to emergencies. NOAA provides these tools and the USCG conducts emergency response, but we are not able to deliver all that is needed today, much less down the road.

As the fossil fuel industry seek permitting approvals for oil and gas exploration in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas for 2012, we need more information about potential impacts, behavior of oil in frigid waters, and appropriate response capacity. 

The Coast Guard’s Arctic Shield prepares for the changing Arctic.

NOAA too sees the change. We are inundated with increasing requests for timely weather forecasts and disaster warnings, more comprehensive and current navigation charts, tide tables, and elevation data, improved oceanographic information, and more baseline data on protected species and ecosystems.

What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic.

The impacts witnessed by locals across the Arctic have global implications.

The Arctic, for example, acts as a thermostat that helps stabilize the Earth’s climate and regulate global temperature.

The Arctic also acts as a barometer of change.  Climate-related changes already apparent in the Arctic portend our global future.

News stories recently called out the Arctic Oscillation as the likely cause of weird winter weather this year – snowstorms in Seattle, epic snow in Alaska and mild winters in much of the lower 48. 

More open seas for longer periods of time have economic benefits for commerce, oil and gas exploration, and tourism. 

Yet we don’t know how these human activities will change Arctic ecosystems.  Nor do we know how the economics of the fisheries will play out as a result of changes in the ocean, whether those changes are natural or human in cause.

Understanding  and  effectively  managing  the  changing  ecosystems,  expectations,  and  opportunities  in  the  Arctic  requires  a  solid  foundation  of  ecological  and  socioeconomic  information.    Yet  despite  the  wealth  of  traditional  ecological  knowledge,  exploration,  and  research  to  date,  even  the  most  basic  data  are  lacking.     

We  need  to  mobilize  our  efforts  in  the  Arctic  and  commit  fully  to  strengthening  the  science  that  underpins  the  decision-­‐making  processes  and  support  services  required  for  sound  Arctic  stewardship  and  enhanced  national  security—the  pillars  that  support  regional  prosperity  and  national  economy. 

NOAA  envisions  an  Arctic  where  decisions  and  actions  related  to  conservation,  management,  and  resource  use  are  based  on  sound  science  and  support  healthy,  productive,  and  resilient  communities  and  ecosystems.    NOAA  envisions  an  Arctic  where  the  global  implications  of  Arctic  change  are  better  understood  and  predicted. 

NOAA has taken stock of its responsibilities for science, services and stewardship in the Arctic.  We released our Arctic Vision and Strategy last year as a dynamic, living document that translates our vision into priorities for action.   It builds upon other governmental initiatives, including the U.S.  Arctic Region Policy, the National Ocean Policy,  and  decisions of the  Arctic  Council.   

NOAA seeks to realize its vision by focusing on six priority goals, including:

  1. Forecasting sea Ice;
  2. Strengthening foundational science to understand and detect Arctic climate and ecosystem changes;
  3. Improving weather and water forecasts and warnings;
  4. Enhancing international and national partnerships;
  5. Improving stewardship and management of ocean and coastal resources in the Arctic; and
  6. Advancing resilient and healthy Arctic communities and economies.

These six priority goals were chosen because they meet two key criteria:  First, they provide the information, knowledge, and policies necessary to meet NOAA mandates and stewardship responsibilities.  Second, they provide the information, knowledge, and services that will enable you and others to live and operate safely in the Arctic.

Embracing these six priority goals provides NOAA with a holistic approach to addressing climate change in the Arctic.  We need such an approach to ensure the continued health of this remote and fragile region—but embracing all six goals fully will take time.  Achieving these priorities will enhance the ability of the Coast Guard to achieve its Arctic goals, and contribute to our collective ability to be good stewards.  They depend on good partnerships.  They enable good stewardship.

Better Arctic sea ice and marine weather forecasts and warnings support real-time navigation and seasonal planning.  NOAA and the USCG, and the Navy are partners in the National Ice Center. U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) members serve on the government staff of the National Data Buoy Center to provide unique skills and interface with USCG for transportation support.

Accurate forecasts depend on deploying a variety of sensing devices— from buoys to airborne and satellite sensors.   We need to do this more effectively, more strategically and at a faster pace.  This is difficult when resources are limited.

Technology development is essential – such as for new platforms like Unmanned Aerial Systems and autonomous gliders that can withstand the rigors of the Arctic environment while collecting data more efficiently and cheaply.  In the works is the MIZOPEX project, a NASA-supported project with NOAA contributions, which will fly UAS over the Beaufort Sea (2013) for Coast Guard Maritime Domain Awareness.  The project will examine Marginal Ice Zone Observations and Processes (Experiment).

Improving sea ice and weather forecasts also depend on enhanced scientific research and modeling. We need to strengthen existing partnerships such as the National Ice Center, and our ties with the Navy, NASA, and Canada for weather data sharing. 

The Coast Guard needs ice ridging data as does NOAA.  There are few data on how ice ridging is changing in the Arctic.  Ice ridging also affects critical habitat for four seal species (ribbon, bearded, spotted, ringed). Each species depends on varying levels of ridging.  And all of us care about oil spills that go under ice, where the oil gets trapped.

By committing to collaborate more effectively, we can begin to deliver on the accurate, quantitative, daily-to-decadal sea ice projections and improved weather forecasts that you need for safe Arctic operations and ecosystem stewardship.

Understanding sea ice means understanding how climate change impacts physical conditions.  Broad-scale biological observation means being able to see how a changing climate and environment will impact the food web and other aspects of the ocean ecosystem. 

Climate models and ecosystem models will enhance our ability to do forecasts and understand how changing sea ice, ocean temperatures, salinity and pH will impact key species such as pollock, cod, salmon, and crab, as well as ice seal species and Arctic cetaceans (e.g., bowhead, gray, humpback, and beluga whales).  

We will need continued and enhanced partnerships to improve baseline observations and understanding of Arctic climate and ecosystems, including in situ and remote sensing observations, shipboard sampling, and long-term, community-based research on marine species. 

The Joint Hydrographic Center, a collaboration between NOAA and the University of New Hampshire, with the Geological Survey of Canada just completed a 5-year joint project with the USCG Cutter Healy and the Canadian CG Cutter Louis S. St-Laurent. The bilateral project collected scientific data to delineate the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the coastline, also known as the extended continental shelf (ECS). The U.S. has an inherent interest in knowing, and declaring to others, the exact extent of its sovereign rights in the ocean as set forth in the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

NOAA’s MOU with the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will facilitate development of baseline observations and environmental studies needed to assess Arctic drilling.

Leveraging these relationships to build sustained observations will enable researchers to study the effects of oil and gas exploration, sea ice loss, ocean acidification, and sea surface temperature warming on Arctic ecosystems over time.  This information will inform NOAA’s ecosystem stewardship, and will contribute to Coast Guard and Navy security risk assessments and the effective timing of Arctic military staging.  

Arctic geospatial infrastructure supports marine transportation, maritime domain awareness, oil spill response, and community resilience. 

Currently, Alaska has limited geospatial infrastructure; meters-level positioning errors; sparse tide, current, and water-level prediction coverage; obsolete shoreline and hydrographic data; poor nautical charts; little understanding of oil in ice; and inadequate oil-spill response capacity. 

Why?  Mostly because of limited resources and other priorities. We have the capability, but not the capacity.  Much information that we take for granted in the lower 48 is simply not readily available in the Arctic.

Modernizing the Arctic geospatial framework will provide the foundation for many activities in the region, including Arctic security operations, effective climate adaptation, community and economic resilience, and safe marine transportation.   The low-hanging fruit include:

Collaboration on gravity data collection for accurate positioning and surveying and mapping are two relatively simple ways we can work together to build a robust geospatial framework. 

By agreeing upon an integrated mapping standard and the smart use of our limited vessel capacity in Arctic waters, we can update data on maps and nautical charts – some of which dates back to the 1800s, before the region was even part of the United States.

NOAA is working to build its oil spill response capacity to support Coast Guard first responders. For example, with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) will be releasing Arctic ERMA this summer.  Arctic ERMA is the same interactive online mapping tool for the Arctic as was used during the Gulf spill response.  ERMA is the acronym for Environmental Response Management Application.  But ERMA is only as good as the information within it, so the continuous sharing of new datasets is essential for accurate mapping.  

In closing, the Arctic is changing, and it’s changing rapidly.  Leadership is urgently needed -- lLeadership through partnerships and leadership for stewardship.  This, then, is your opportunity.

NOAA and the Coast Guard have strong partnerships already, but we can and should strengthen those and other partnerships.

Our challenge is to help ensure that new science and technology can be sustained without eroding core environmental services.  This is a tall order any place.  But in an environment where small changes can have big ripple effects and change is accelerating, the challenge of resource limitations is formidable. Partnerships are critical for putting us on track.

The Coast Guard’s motto is  "Semper Paratus."  Good leaders understand that preparing for tomorrow’s Arctic is will require more than just the next page of a calendar.  Good leaders know that today’s actions will shape the future of the Arctic, rippling far and wide.

I am reminded of the words of Abraham Lincoln in his Second Annual Message to Congress on December 1, 1862:

"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country." 

Words of wisdom to inspire all of us, but especially you new leaders. 

I urge you to:

That is my charge to you. That is my challenge to you.

Thank you.


NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.