One-Billion Dollars for Polar Icebreaker Included in 2017 Defense Appropriations Bill
The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee added $1 billion to fully fund construction of the first U.S. Polar Icebreaker in over 25 years.
The U.S. Coast Guard has said it needs three heavy and three medium icebreakers to fulfill its mission. It currently has one medium vessel and two 40-year-old heavy vessels—one of which has been out of service since 2010. By contrast, Russia has 40 operational icebreakers while Sweden and Finland operate six and seven icebreakers, respectively. China, not an Arctic nation, recently invested $300 million for its second heavy icebreaker.
“This is a significant victory in my decade-long fight to turn our nation’s focus to the Arctic and embrace our role as an Arctic nation,” said U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a subcommittee member.”
In March 2015, Murkowski formed the U.S. Senate Arctic Caucus, along with Senator Angus King (I-Maine) to discuss Arctic policy and build awareness and understanding to the nation that the Arctic should be a national priority.
“This is the first tangible demonstration that we are committed to fulfilling the responsibilities associated with our strategic geography,” Murkowski added. “This funding moves the concept of a new icebreaker from aspiration to reality.”
A recent report from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which lays out a plan for future Arctic shipping, recommended expanding the U.S. icebreaking capacity. “The United States must recognize the importance of providing infrastructure to support increased domestic and international maritime activity,” the report said.
“A robust icebreaker fleet is critical for the Coast Guard to carry out its mission in the Arctic—whether to monitor increased levels of shipping activity or to carry out its traditional search and rescue activities,” said Murkowski. “This is an extremely positive step towards the fully operational icebreaker fleet needed for the safety and security of the Arctic region.”