“An Arctic presence grows more important for U.S. and its partners” –The Watch

This map show the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) within the Arctic: Canada (purple), Greenland (orange), Iceland (green), Norway (turquoise), Russia (light blue), and USA (dark blue). As sea ice reduces there will be more opportunity for ice to drift from one EEZ to another, which has implications for the potential spread of pollutants.
Credit: DeRepentigny et al., 2020

NORTHCOM’s on-line magazine, The Watch, has a short post about the Arctic.

I would note that most of the discussion centers on the Atlantic side of the Arctic, whereas the Coast Guard concentration has primarily been on the Pacific side. We have seen some indications there may be Coast Guard Arctic capable assets on the Atlantic side in the future. Not too early to think about that.

The Coast Guard has had good relations with the Russians in the Arctic because of a common interest in fisheries, SAR, and environmental protection. That is all to the good. At some future date, the Coast Guard will probably do a Freedom of Navigation Exercise through the at least parts of the Northern Sea Route. Hopefully we can find ways to, perhaps, disagree amicably as we have with the Canadians in regard to the Northwest Passage.

“Military Planners Should Map Out Operations in Warming Arctic Waters, Expert Says” –USNI

Map of the Arctic region showing shipping routes Northeast Passage, Northern Sea Route, and Northwest Passage, and bathymetry, Arctic Council, by Susie Harder

A reminder from the US Naval Institute of an issue that Russia and Canada share in opposition to the US–passage through Arctic Straits.

Let’s not forget that, when the US Navy wants to do “Freedom of Navigation” Exercises through the Northern Sea Route, there will be a Coast Guard icebreaker leading them.

“Royal Canadian Navy HMCS Harry DeWolf Departs On Her Maiden Operational Deployment” –Naval News

HMCS Harry DeWolf, leaving HMC Dockyard in Halifax and steaming under Angus L. Macdonald
suspension bridge crossing Halifax Harbour in Nova Scotia, Canada

Naval News reports the first of Canada’s planned eight Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) (six for their Navy and two for their Coast Guard) departed on its first operational deployment on August 3. The deployment is expected to take four months and will include participation in the annual Nanook Exercise with partners including the USCG, transit of the North West Passage, counter clockwise circumnavigation of North America, and drug operations in the Eastern Pacific transit zone and the Caribbean again in cooperation with the USCG.

USCGC Healy departed for a clockwise circumnavigation of North America on July 10. Presumably these two will arrange to say hello as they pass. Hopefully both crews will be home by Christmas.

“Rushing Navy Ships into the Arctic for a FONOP is Dangerous” –USNI

Map of the Arctic region showing shipping routes Northeast Passage, Northern Sea Route, and Northwest Passage, and bathymetry, Arctic Council, by Susie Harder

An interesting discussion of the Navy’s proposed Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in the Arctic which would presumably require Coast Guard assistance.

Within these stories are three different ideas: first, that the Navy is interested in expanding its physical presence in Alaska, through returning to Adak and/or a port on the Bering Strait ( Nome has been discussed for years); second, that Navy personnel need to regain operational familiarity with the Arctic environment; and third, that the Navy appears to be considering a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the Arctic for summer 2019.

The first two ideas are unremarkable. Given the dearth of infrastructure and the challenging environment, both improved facilities and practical learning opportunities are required to ensure Navy vessels and aircraft operate safely and effectively.

The third idea—conducting a FONOP in the Arctic in just a few months—is a bombshell.

I seem to remember hearing that this had been discussed, and the Commandant had taken the position that the Coast Guard could not support the idea of a Freedom of Navigation Operation given the state of our icebreaker “fleet,” but apparently the idea is still alive, at least as of mid January.