Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced this month the bipartisan Icebreaker Recapitalization Act with Washington Senator Maria Cantwell that would authorize the U.S. Navy to construct up to 6 heavy icebreakers. The new icebreakers would be designed and operated by the Coast Guard, since under US law it is the sole service responsible for icebreaking missions.
“As an Arctic nation, America must be a global leader towards an Arctic future as this dynamic region opens up to new opportunities; by contrast, countries from Russia to Canada to China to even India see the worth and importance in investing in icebreakers,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, Chair of the U.S. Senate Arctic Caucus.
“From a military perspective, this is an imperative; from an economic development viewpoint, it is a down payment on an Arctic future and as a scientific research opportunity, it opens up a new world of knowledge.”
According to the US Coast Guard High Latitude Study released to Congress four years ago, the United States needs six heavy duty and four medium icebreakers to meet the statutory and mission requirements of the Coast Guard and the Navy. However, while Russia, China and other nations are developing their icebreaking capability, the United States has only two operational icebreakers, the heavy icebreaker the Polar Star and medium-duty Healy which was designed for scientific research.
Additionally, the Secretary of Defense recently acknowledged to Senator Murkowski in a hearing that the United States military strategy “falls short” when compared to Russia’s recent aggressive posture and investment.
The U.S. is lagging behind other Arctic nations such as Russia in developing and maintaining polar icebreakers. Russia operates 11 icebreakers with comparable capabilities to the United States, 6 more under construction – and plans for 5 additional icebreakers. The Icebreaker Recapitalization Act will ensure that the United States can assert its influence and defend its interests in the Arctic said the bipartisan presentation.