A new report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) outlines for Congress the key issues around modernizing the Coast Guard’s icebreaker fleet. According to the author Ronald O’Rourke:
Potential issues for Congress regarding Coast Guard polar icebreaker modernization include the potential impact on U.S. polar missions of the United States currently having no operational heavy polar icebreakers; the numbers and capabilities of polar icebreakers the Coast Guard will need in the future; the disposition of Polar Sea following its decommissioning; whether the new polar icebreaker initiated in the FY23013 [sic] budget should be funded with incremental funding (as proposed in the Coast Guard’s Five Year Capital Investment Plan) or full funding in a single year, as required under the executive branch’s full funding policy; whether new polar icebreakers should be funded entirely in the Coast Guard budget, or partly or entirely in some other part of the federal budget, such as the Department of Defense (DOD) budget, the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget, or both; whether to provide future icebreaking capability through construction of new ships or service life extensions of existing polar icebreakers; and whether future polar icebreakers should be acquired through a traditional acquisition or a leasing arrangement.
The report comes on the heels of a recent request from the Coast Guard for $8 million dollars for Fiscal Year 2013 to begin the acquisitions process for a new polar-class icebreaker that the Coast Guard says it needs to perform its critical missions in the Arctic and to protect U.S. interests broadly across the region. “The $8 million request is less than 1 percent of the $860 million being asked for icebreaker acquisition in the Department of Homeland Security’s five-year budget projection,” according to a recent report from The Navy Times. “Neither of the U.S.’s two heavy-duty Polar-class icebreakers is in service. The Polar Star is awaiting a $57 million upgrade set to be finished in December. Its sister ship, Polar Sea, has been docked in Seattle since 2010 with engine issues. The medium-duty polar icebreaker Healy is designed for research and cannot cut through the thickest ice.”
To read the full CRS report, click here.