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National Science Foundation HomeNational Science Foundation - Directorate for Geological Sciences (GEO)
Polar Programs (PLR)
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Division of Polar Programs
United States Antarctic Program

President's Memordanum Regarding Antarctica (Memorandum 6646, February 1982)

U.S. Policy on Private Expeditions to Antarctica
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U.S. Policy for Antarctica

Our Nation's policy for Antarctica has developed steadily and consistently over the years. It is based on four principles:

  • The U.S. recognizes no foreign territorial claims.
  • The U.S. reserves the right to participate in any future uses of the region.
  • Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only.
  • There shall be free access for scientific investigation and other peaceful pursuits.

In 1995 and 1996, the National Science and Technology Council, at the direction of the U.S. Congress, reviewed the policy guidelines for the USAP. Emphasizing that the United States should maintain an active and influential presence in the Antarctica, it concluded that:

USAP is cost effective in advancing American scientific and geopolitical objectives, and, from a science perspective at the current level of investment. [the NSTC supports] the continuation of three stations with year round presence.
(United States Antarctic Program, 1996, Committee on Fundamental Science, National Science and Technology Council)

It also found that the science conducted in Antarctica is of high quality and of interest to a broad scientific community and that often the results of these investigations imply consequences for human activity beyond those usually associated with basic research. To explore options for sustaining the high level of U.S. Antarctic science activity under realistically constrained funding levels, the NSTC recommended that NSF convene an external panel, which was comprised of 11 members and met between October 1996 and February 1997. The panel's findings were issued in April 1997, it reported:

"We believe the U.S. Antarctic Program is well managed, involves high quality science and is important to the region as well as the United States. We also believe that in the current budget environment, costs must be reduced, preferably through increased efficiency and "reinvention," but, if not, though reduced scope. Recommendations are offered herein to help ensure the continued viability of the program into the 21st century."
(The United States in Antarctica, 1997, Report of the U.S. Antarctic External Panel)

In October 2011, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation initiated a major review of the U.S. Antarctic Program to examine U.S. logistical capabilities likely to be needed in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean during the next two decades and to seek ways to enhance logistical efficiency to support world-class science.  The Panel conducted an independent review of the current U.S. Antarctic Program to identify and characterize a range of options for supporting and implementing the required national scientific endeavors, international collaborations, and strong U.S. presence in Antarctica.

The results of this review and the panel’s recommendation are published in the report More and Better Science in Antarctica through Increased Logistical Effectiveness.  Links to the report are at the following URLs: 


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