Friday September 19, 2014
I’m back in Washington, D.C. after a fantastic August work period in Alaska. Over the month, I was honored to have the opportunity to travel all across our great state, visiting a number of communities, from western Alaska to the Interior to Southcentral and back to Southeast. While I loved every minute of it, it was not a vacation; it was an opportunity to see firsthand the issues that Alaskans are facing. Being able to connect with so many of you was invaluable to me as I continue my work for you in Congress. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you in the United States Senate.
ISIS in the Middle East
Like all Alaskans, I am extremely concerned with the rapid growth of ISIS and the threat this barbaric group poses to Americans abroad, at home, and our allies around the world. President Barack Obama recently presented a broad strategy for dealing with the terrorists and a few near-term goals, but in my mind he did not convey a comprehensive plan for the region with a well-defined mission and clear objectives. Watching his own military leaders disagree with him in the days since has only heightened my concerns.
We must acknowledge a hard truth, however: there are no good options when it comes to degrading and destroying this threat – and I’m incredibly worried about doing nothing right now and letting ISIS fester. So while I continue to have my doubts, I voted for a bill this week that would fund federal government operations through December 11th and also provide a limited authority to equip and train the moderate factions in Syria against these Islamic extremists. I remain incredibly skeptical, though, but the bill was encouraging because it does contain some concrete short-term reporting requirements. This bill also does not create an indefinite period of activity, only a narrow time frame for the President’s strategy and coalition to make progress. When Congress returns in November, our top priority must be a full and open debate on defense legislation that considers what further action would keep Americans safe.
National Energy Labs, Source of Pride and Knowledge
This year, the Department of Energy held the first annual National Lab Day to boost awareness of the work being done across the country by our nation’s leading scientists. The DOE’s 17 national laboratories are great assets for our country and are home to some of the best basic and applied research in the world. From the first-ever production of electricity using nuclear power to deciphering the human genome, the national labs play a vital role in making breakthrough discoveries. To find out how to plan a tour, visit the DOE’s website here."
(On Lab Day, I encouraged Alaskans to stop by for a tour when they travel Outside – Click to watch.)
Leading the Arctic Conversation
I was incredibly honored to represent the United States at the 11th Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada on September 9-10, bringing together members of the national parliaments from the eight Arctic nations – along with observers from indigenous populations, regional organizations, and interested non-Arctic nations. The Conference focused on the topics of: Sustainable Infrastructure Development, Governance Models, Resource Development and Capacity Building, and Environmental Challenges.
As Arctic Parliamentarians, we sought to find more ways to cooperate and collaborate across the Arctic region for the betterment of those who live in the north. I was joined at the Conference by the new United States Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman, and we had a good discussion about the need for more attention to be paid to the Alaska-Canada border. More information on the Conference, including my presentation on capacity development and the Conference statement, can be found at:
(At the Conference of Arctic Parliamentarians, I spoke about how to ensure sustainable and responsible economic development that will benefit Arctic populations.)
(International representatives from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the U.S. came together to discuss our nations’ roles and responsibilities in the Arctic.)
Out and About With You in Alaska
(Touring the HAARP facility in Gakona, a world-class facility that provides valuable research opportunities to the science community. The Air Force is currently in discussion with UAF and Ahtna to find the most cost-effective way to keep this facility open.)
(Exploring Kennecott Mines with National Park Service staff and Rick Obernesser, Superintendent of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.)
(Tony Zellers, Project Director of MEA’s Eklutna Generation Station. This new plant is scheduled to be finished and up and running at the start of 2015. It’s truly a state of the art plant that promises to add more stability to MEA customers.)
(In the Mat-Su Valley, I spoke to the Palmer Chamber of Commerce about local issues and gave them a D.C. update.)
(Showing off my hula hooping skills at the State Fair…I was pretty good as a kid!)
(I still can’t believe this pumpkin weighed over 1,200 pounds! Check out an article about how our state’s veggies grow so large here.)"
(One of the neatest things inside the Farm Exhibit Booth was a station where you could make a candle out of beeswax! Here I am deep in concentration.)
(Checking out some of the Alaska National Guard’s equipment!)
(Chatting with Chad Carpenter, creator of the famous and hilarious Tundra comic strip.)
(Here I am with leaders of some of the nation’s most prominent philanthropies, who visited Alaska for the Rasmussen Foundation’s Grantmakers Tour. I spoke to them about all things Alaska, specifically the health of our economy and how that affects Alaskans.)
(Cutting the ribbon with the Lower Yukon School District Board of Education members at the official grand opening of the new Alakanuk School.)
(Speaking with St. Mary’s elders Ruthann Elia and Lena Long at a community meeting.)
(Jimmy Kozevnikoff, certified water plant operator, keeps the plant operating for 29 homes with potable water and flush toilets in the village of Pitka's Point.)
(I was honored to present Maggie Tucker with an award to honor her late husband Mark Tucker for his many years of incredible service as the Yup’ik language instructor at Emmonak School.)
(I loved having a Q&A session with these students from the newly renovated Emmonak High School.)
(In Skagway, I caught up with all the students at the Skagway City School, including these bright young Alaskans in grades 3-6.)
Application Period NOW OPEN for 2015 Senate Page Program
If you have a son or daughter approaching their junior year of high school, I want to invite them to get a one-of-a-kind educational opportunity and apply to be a candidate for the Spring Session of the Senate Page program. Students play an active role in the day-to-day operations of the Senate, including assisting members with a wide variety of tasks. I am able to assign one Page slot each session of the school year. The student must be 16 or 17 on or before the date of Page appointment, and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. For more information please .