The U.S. Antarctic Program is the nation's program for research and presence in Antarctica. It is funded and managed by the federal government, with agency responsibilities as follows.
This unit of the Interagency Policy Coordinating Committee is the policy guidance body for all U.S. activities under the Antarctic Treaty. Its members represent the Department of State (chair), the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and other agencies as appropriate.
The NSF has overall funding and management responsibility for the U.S. activities in Antarctica. This responsibility involves several functions:
o Annual preparation of plans and budget for consider- ation within the Executive Branch and for review and appropriation by the Congress.
o Development of scientific goals for Antarctica, obtaining advice as needed from the scientific community and communicating these goals to the scientific community.
o Receipt of proposals for research projects from U.S. universities, other research institutions, and federal agencies; evaluation of these proposals for relevance to program goals, scientific merit, and logistics feasibility; and granting of funds (as available) to these institutions for performance of the projects in Antarctica and completion of analysis upon return.
o Detailed planning of logistics, and transmittal of logistics requirements and necessary funds to the U.S. Naval Support Force Antarctica and to the United States Coast Guard (functions are described below).
o Facilities management, design, planning, engineering, construction, and maintenance.
o Development and management of a contract with a commercial firm (currently Antarctic Support Associates) for operation of South Pole, Siple, and Palmer Stations, the research vessels Polar Duke and Nathaniel B. Palmer, construction, specialized functions at McMurdo Station, and other services.
o Development and implementation of a comprehensive safety, environment, and health program for U.S. activities in Antarctica.
o Arrangement of cooperative scientific and logistics programs with other Antarctic Treaty nations.
o Designation of a Senior U.S. Representative in Antarctica and on-site management of the field programs in Antarctica.
o Serving as a clearinghouse and source of information regarding antarctic records, files, documents, and maps maintained within agencies and nongovernmental organizations.
The Defense Department assists in planning and carries out logistics requested and reimbursed by the Foundation, and it assures the continuing availability of essential logistics components. This function is performed principally by the U.S. Naval Support Force Antarctica and the Navy's Antarctic Development Squadron 6 (VXE-6). Units of the Air Force (Air Mobility Command), Air National Guard, and Army also participate in this work. Functions include:
o Designated activities at McMurdo Station.
o Operation of a squadron of seven LC-130 Hercules airplanes and six UH-1N Huey helicopters in support of science projects and resupply of inland stations
o Arrangement of annual ship resupply of McMurdo by Military Sealift Command contract ships
o Operational communications
o Military Airlift Command flights between Antarctica and adjacent gateway cities
o Safety and medical care for U.S. personnel in Antarctica as assigned
o Operation of portions of a staging facility in Christchurch, New Zealand
The United States Coast Guard, a part of the Department of Transportation, provides icebreaker services, reimbursed by the Foundation. These services include:
o Channel breaking in McMurdo Sound in advance of the annual ship resupply of McMurdo Station
o Escort of supply ships into and out of McMurdo Station
o Other assistance as required, including onboard research support
Each icebreaker has an on-board aviation detachment consisting of two helicopters used for ice reconnaissance, personnel transportation, some cargo operations, and other support.
In addition to chairing the Antarctic Working Group, the State Department is responsible for the formulation of foreign policy and the provision of foreign policy direction relating to the development and implementation of an integrated U.S. program for Antarctica; for the conduct of foreign relations regarding Antarctica; and for legal matters relating to the interpretation and implementation of the Antarctic Treaty.
As of mid-1994, the President had asked the Congress for antarctic funding in the National Science Foundation bud- get in fiscal 1995 as follows:
Awards to institutions for research $ 31,030,000
Operations and science support 104,420,000
Logistical support 62,600,000
Total, U.S. Antarctic Program $198,050,000
The Antarctic Treaty, signed at Washington, D.C., in 1959 and entered into force in 1961, establishes a legal framework for the area south of 60 degrees S, which includes all of Antarctica. There are two types of Antarctic Treaty parties. Consultative nations are empowered to meet periodically and to influence operation of the treaty. Acceding nations agree to abide by the treaty, but, not being among the original signatories and not having substantial programs in Antarctica, do not participate in the consultative process.
The treaty provides that Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only; it prohibits military operations except in support of peaceful activities. It provides that freedom of scientific investigation and cooperation shall continue and that nations shall exchange program plans, personnel, observations, and results. The treaty does not recognize, dispute, or establish territorial claims, and it prohibits assertion of new claims. It prohibits nuclear explosions and disposal of radioactive waste. It guarantees access by any treaty nation to inspect others' stations and equipment.
The consultative meetings provided for by the treaty have contributed recommendations, most of which have been for- mally adopted by the treaty nations, that provide rules for operating on the continent. One of the most significant is the Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora, ratified by the United States as Public Law 95-541, the Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978. Other significant advances have included the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals and the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. A 1991 Antarctic Treaty meeting adopted a protocol for improved environmental protection that also prohibits mining.
The treaty itself provides for policy formulation on a range of issues regarding Antarctica. The government offices in the Antarctic Treaty nations that operate field programs in Antarctica have established a Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) to facilitate working-level decision making and information exchange. Issues discussed at this level include, for example, decisions regarding the exchange of personnel and cooperation in research and logistics. For the United States, the director of the Office of Polar Pro- grams, National Science Foundation, is the COMNAP repre- sentative.
SCAR is a committee of the International Council of Sci- entific Unions (ICSU), a nongovernmental organization. As stated in its constitution, SCAR is ``charged with furthering the coordination of scientific activity in Antarctica, with a view to framing a scientific program of circumpolar scope and significance.'' Membership consists of a representative from each country engaged in antarctic research, representatives of other ICSU organizations as appropriate, and the World Meteorologi- cal Organization. Other international organizations may designate observers to attend meetings of SCAR. For the United States, the national committee adhering to SCAR is the Polar Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences.
SCAR meets every 2 years in a SCAR country to consider various scientific and logistics objectives and accom- plishments. It also sponsors or associates with major symposia on antarctic subjects. Sometimes SCAR establishes working groups to develop information or reports in response to Antarctic Treaty recommendations.
Within the context of the Antarctic Treaty, extensive international cooperation takes place in Antarctica to more effectively accomplish both science projects and logistics. Some examples are exchanges of personnel among stations, cooperative planning and execution of large-scale science projects such as deep rock core drilling and glaciological exploration, and the exchange or shared use of logistics assets such as ships and aircraft. The United States has pursued cooperative projects with every Antarctic Treaty consultative nation.