Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress–Updated

POLAR SEA and POLAR STAR side by side in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica

The US Naval Institute News Service has provided a copy of the Dec. 14, 2015 Congressional Research Service report, “Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress,” by Naval Ronald O’Rourke.

This updates a series of earlier reports.

It is quite clear from the report that even if things go as planned, which I doubt it will, we will have a period of two to six years when we will have only one medium icebreaker and no heavy icebreakers.

If we do as currently planned, we will not see a new icebreaker until at least 2024.

We have looked at alternatives that might carry us through until the US can truly recapitalize its current fleet.

We can renovate Polar Sea. Clearly Congress is running out of patience waiting for a decision about what to do with this ship. We ought to ask for the funds to renovate it one way or the other.

We can lease one or two of these excess icebreakers. We could put one in the Great Lakes to satisfy those interests and it could in worst case exit the Great Lakes and go to the assistance of a polar icebreaker or break into resupply Thule airbase in Greenland.

Both of these are relatively low cost options. They deserve serious consideration.

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