Thursday, July 24, 2014

Arctic Waters: U.S. Policy and the Sea Services

With our long Alaska Arctic coast (over 1000 miles), the U.S. is an Arctic power. What does that mean and how what is the U.S. approach to the Arctic waters?

On 23 July 14, there was testimony on this topic before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, where, among others, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Neffenger testified on implementing US policy in the Arctic :
Currently, Coast Guard vessels and aircraft monitor close to one million square miles of ocean off the Alaskan coast to enforce U.S. laws, conduct search and rescue, assist scientific exploration, advance navigation safety and foster environmental stewardship. Throughout his testimony, the Vice Commandant spoke to these diverse operations, focusing on the need for the continuous assessment of capabilities required to operate in the region, long-term icebreaking needs and the National Arctic Strategy.
USCG Polar Star
“Current and future operations in the Arctic and Antarctic will continue to be informed by the availability of polar icebreakers and ice-strengthened vessels. Polar Star’s recent reactivation will provide the U.S. with heavy icebreaker capability for another seven to 10 years,” said the Vice Commandant. “We believe that Polar Star along with the medium icebreaker Healy provide a minimum capability necessary to address the nation’s near-term icebreaking needs in the Arctic and Antarctic, and will give us the time we need to assess longer term national needs and requirements.”
I translate that last part as "We need more ice capable assets, including more real ice breakers."

The National Arctic Strategy:

The Coast Guard Arctic Strategy follows:

The U.S. Navy has an "Arctic Roadmap"-

You can watch the 23 July hearing here.

You might note the absence of pictures of U.S. Navy icebreakers - because the U.S. Navy hasn't got any. It used to, but not now.

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