Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress
Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization:
Background, Issues, and Options for Congress
Updated October 3, 2008
Specialist in Naval Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization:
Background, Issues, and Options for Congress
Of the Coast Guard’s three polar icebreakers, two — Polar Star and Polar Sea
— have exceeded their intended 30-year service lives. The Polar Star is not
operational and has been caretaker status since July 1, 2006. A 2007 report from the
National Research Council (NRC) on the U.S. polar icebreaking fleet states that
“U.S. [polar] icebreaking capability is now at risk of being unable to support national
interests in the north and the south.” On July 16, 2008, Admiral Thad Allen, the
Commandant of the Coast Guard, testified that: “Today, our nation is at a crossroads
with Coast Guard domestic and international icebreaking capabilities. We have
important decisions to make. And I believe we must address our icebreaking needs
The Administration is conducting an interagency Arctic policy review, and the
Coast Guard is conducting studies on replacements for Polar Star and Polar Sea.
Under the Coast Guard’s current schedule, the first replacement polar icebreaker
might enter service in 8 to 10 years. The Coast Guard estimated in February 2008
that new replacement ships might cost $800 million to $925 million each in 2008
dollars, and that the alternative of extending the service lives of Polar Sea and Polar
Star for 25 years might cost about $400 million per ship.
Potential policy issues for Congress regarding Coast Guard polar icebreaker
modernization include the numbers and capabilities of polar icebreakers the Coast
Guard will need in the future; whether to provide these icebreakers through
construction of new ships or service life extensions of older ships; whether to
accelerate the Coast Guard’s current schedule for acquiring replacement ships;
whether new ships should be nuclear powered; whether new ships 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; and whether, as an interim measure, the
Polar Star should be repaired and placed back into service.
Congress’s options regarding Coast Guard polar icebreaker modernization
include but are not limited to the following: approving the Coast Guard’s current
plan; holding hearings to solicit additional information on the issue; directing the
Coast Guard to include the option of nuclear power in its studies of requirements for
future icebreakers; directing the Coast Guard to pursue a particular acquisition
strategy for icebreaker modernization; accelerating the procurement of new
icebreakers relative to the Coast Guard’s current plan; funding the procurement of
new icebreakers partly or entirely in the DOD and/or NSF budget rather than entirely
the Coast Guard budget; and directing the Coast Guard to reactivate Polar Star.
The FY2009 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations act
(Division D of H.R. 2638/P.L. 110-329 of September 30, 2008) provides $30.3
million to reactivate Polar Star for 7 to 10 years of service life. This report will be
updated as events warrant.
In troduction ......................................................1
Context for Issue..............................................2
Missions of U.S. Polar Icebreakers................................4
Current U.S. Polar Icebreakers....................................5
Three Coast Guard Ships....................................5
One National Science Foundation Ship.........................6
NSF Funding for Icebreaker Operations and Maintenance..............8
2007 National Research Council Report............................9
Origin of Study............................................9
Conclusions and Recommendations..........................10
Coast Guard Perspective...................................10
Current Coast Guard Plan......................................11
Cost Estimates for Certain Modernization Options...................11
New Replacement Ships...................................11
25-Year Service Life Extensions.............................12
Reactivate Polar Star for 7 to 10 Years........................12
Reactivate Polar Star for a Single Deployment..................13
U.S. Shipbuilding Industrial Base................................13
Issues for Congress...............................................13
Number and Capabilities of Future Polar Icebreakers.................14
New Construction vs. Modernization.............................17
Acceleration of Current Schedule................................18
Funding Ships in Coast Guard Budget or Elsewhere..................21
Reactivating Polar Star as Interim Measure.........................22
Options for Congress..............................................23
Recent Legislative Activity.........................................24
FY2009 DHS Appropriations Act (H.R. 2638/P.L. 110-329)...........24
Coast Guard Authorization Act For FY2008 (H.R. 2830/S. 1892).......26
FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 2764/P.L. 110-161)....28
Appendix A. Funding Arrangement with NSF..........................30
Excerpts from 2007 NRC Report.................................30
Excerpts from July 16, 2008, Hearing.............................32
Coast Guard Testimony....................................32
NSF and U.S. Arctic Commission Testimony...................37
Appendix B. NSF Use of Coast Guard vs. Other Polar Icebreakers..........39
Excerpts from NSF Statement for July 16, 2008, Hearing.............39
NSF Spoken Testimony at July 16, 2008, Hearing...................45
Appendix C. Memorandum for Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff from
DOD Combatant Commanders..................................52
List of Tables
Table 1. U.S. Polar Icebreakers.......................................7
Table 2. Uses of Coast Guard Polar Icebreakers..........................7
Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker
Modernization: Background, Issues, and
Options for Congress
Polar icebreakers can operate in the extreme conditions of, and break through
the thick ice found in, the Arctic Ocean and the waters surrounding Antarctica. Of
the Coast Guard’s three polar icebreakers, two — Polar Star and Polar Sea — have
exceeded their intended 30-year service lives. The Polar Star is not operational and
has been caretaker status since July 1, 2006.1 The Coast Guard’s third polar
icebreaker — Healy — is much younger and in operational condition, but has less
icebreaking capability than the other two ships.
A 2007 report from the National Research Council (NRC) on the U.S. polar
icebreaking fleet states that “Over the last decade, some routine maintenance on
[Polar Star and Polar Sea] has been deferred due to a lack of funds and no major life
extension program has been planned; as a consequence, U.S. [polar] icebreaking
capability is now at risk of being unable to support national interests in the north and
On July 16, 2008, Admiral Thad Allen, the Commandant of the Coast Guard,
testified that: “Today, our nation is at a crossroads with Coast Guard domestic and
international icebreaking capabilities. We have important decisions to make. And I
believe we must address our icebreaking needs now, to ensure we will continue to
prosper in the years and decades to come, whether on the Great Lakes, the critical
waterways of the East Coast or the harsh operating environments of the polar
region.”3 An August 17, 2008, press report quotes Admiral Allen as stating that, in
light of the time required to build a new polar icebreaker, “I think we’re at a crisis
point on making a decision.”4
1 Source for July 1, 2006, date: U.S. Coast Guard email to CRS on February 22, 2008.
2 National Research Council, Polar Icebreakers in a Changing World, An Assessment of
U.S. Needs, Washington, 2007, p. 2.
3 Source: Transcript of spoken remarks of Admiral Allen at July 16, 2008, hearing on Coast
Guard icebreaking needs before the Coast Guard and Maritime transportation subcommittee
of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
4 Andrew C. Revkin, “A Push To Increase Icebreakers In The Arctic,” New York Times,
August 17, 2008: 6.
The Administration is conducting an interagency Arctic policy review to replace
the current Arctic policy statement, which dates to 1994. The Coast Guard is
conducting studies on replacements for Polar Star and Polar Sea. Under the Coast
Guard’s current schedule, the first replacement polar icebreaker might enter service
in 8 to 10 years. Until then, the Coast Guard plans to continue operating Polar Sea
and Healy while keeping Polar Star, for the time being at least, in caretaker status as
a reserve asset.
Congress, in the explanatory statement for the FY2008 Consolidated
Appropriations Act (H.R. 2764/P.L. 110-161 of December 26, 2007), expressed
concern about the Coast Guard’s ability to meet its polar operations mission
requirements in light of the condition of the Coast Guard’s polar icebreaker fleet, and
directed the Coast Guard to submit a comprehensive report on polar operations.
The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation subcommittee of the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing on Coast Guard
icebreaking needs, including polar icebreaker modernization, on July 16, 2008.
The FY2009 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations act
(Division D of H.R. 2638/P.L. 110-329 of September 30, 2008) provides $30.3
million to reactivate Polar Star for 7 to 10 years of service life.
The issue for Congress that is addressed in this report is whether to approve or
modify the Coast Guard’s plans for modernizing its polar icebreakers. Congressional
decisions on this issue could affect the Coast Guard’s ability to perform its polar
missions, Coast Guard funding requirements, and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial
The scope of this CRS report is limited to the question of Coast Guard polar
icebreaker modernization. Other CRS reports cover certain other issues relating to
the polar regions.5
Context for Issue
The issue of polar icebreaker modernization comes at a time of:
!increased interest and activities in polar regions, particularly the
Arctic, due to melting of Arctic ice;
5 See, for example, CRS Report RL33941, Polar Bears: Proposed Listing Under the
Endangered Species Act, by Eugene H. Buck, CRS Report RL32838, Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): Legislative Actions Through the 110th Congress, First Session,
by Anne Gillis, M. Lynne Corn, and Beth A. Roberts, CRS Report RL34266, Climate
Change: Science Update 2007, by Jane A. Leggett, and CRS Report RS21890, The U.N.
Law of the Sea Convention and the United States: Developments Since October 2003, by
Marjorie Ann Browne.
!emerging debates over Arctic sovereignty and exclusive economic
zones (EEZs) in the Arctic;
!concerns about the Coast Guard’s ability to perform all of its various
missions, including polar missions, within available resources; and
!concerns for the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base.
Regarding the first two items above, many observers anticipate that the melting
of Arctic ice in coming years will open up potentially important sea transportation
routes through the Arctic and make it possible (or easier) to explore for oil and other
resources in the region. Emerging debates over Arctic sovereignty and EEZs in the
Arctic stem to a large degree from these anticipated developments. Russia, Canada,
Denmark, and the United States in the last few years, and particularly since the
summer of 2007, have been taking various actions to assert their claims regarding
Arctic sovereignty and EEZs, gather evidence to support potential claims, or plan for
increased operations in the Arctic.6 The Coast Guard states that:
Recent years have seen a significant increase in Polar activity, including
efforts by multiple Arctic nations to define and claim Arctic seabed and access
to natural resources. Energy security needs, protection of U.S. sovereignty,
increased Arctic shipping, prevention and response activities, as well as the
growing need for Arctic domain awareness will increase the tempo of Coast
Guard operations in the region. The Coast Guard is often the sole Federal
presence in the Arctic and the only entity positioned and capable of protecting
U.S. sovereignty while supporting scientific research. The Coast Guard is
6 For additional discussion, see, for example, Anthony L. Russell, “Carpe Diem, Siezing
Strategic Opportunity in the Arctic,” Joint Force Quarterly, Issue 51, 4th Quarter 2008: 94-
August 17, 2008: 6; Rebekah Gordon, “Coast Guard Commandant’s Alaska Visit Assessed
Outlook in Arctic,”Inside the Navy, August 11, 2008; John C. Marcario, “Arctic Presence,”
Seapower, August 2008: 32-33; Matt Hilburn, “Trans-Arctic Shipping,” Seapower, August
2008: 34-36; “Russian Navy Boosts Combat Presence in Arctic,” DefenseNews.com (Agence
France-Presse), July 14, 2008; “Warships To Be Sent To Arctic,” Atlanta Journal-
Constitution, July 15, 2008; Zachary M. Peterson, “U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard Chiefs
Discuss Growing Arctic Mission,” Inside the Navy, Adrian Blomfield, “Russia Plans Arctic
Military Build-Up,” London Daily Telegraph, June 16, 2008; Lolita Baldor, “AP Interview:
US Military Eyes More Northern Border Patrols,” WashingtonPost.com, May 12, 2008 (also
published by NavyTimes.com on May 13, 2008, under the headline “As Ice Melts,
NorthCom Eyes Arctic Patrols”); Alex Shoumatoff, “The Arctic Oil Rush,” Vanity Fair,
May 2008; Scott G. Borgerson, “Arctic Meltdown, The Economic and Security Implications
of Global Warming,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2008; Caitlin Harrington, “Eyeing Up
the New Arctic,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, January 16, 2008: 22-27; Richard Burgess, “The
New Cold War?,” Seapower, October 2007: 14-16,18; David Pugiliese, “Wake Up Call?,”
Seapower, October 2007: 19-20, 22; Deborah Zabarenko, “U.S. Resumes Mapping Of Arctic
Seabed,” Washington Times, August 15, 2007; Ian Austen, “Canada Announces Plans For
2 New Bases In Its Far North,” New York Times, August 11, 2007; “Canada To Strengthen
Arctic Claim,” BBC News, August 10, 2008; C. J. Chivers, “Russians Plant Flag on the
Arctic Seabed,” New York Times, August 3, 2007; and Fred Weir, “As Icecaps Melt, Russia
Races For Arctic’s Resources,” Christian Science Monitor, July 31, 2007.
aggressively considering alternatives to improve and sustain operational presence7
in the Polar Regions.
Missions of U.S. Polar Icebreakers
The missions of U.S. polar icebreakers can be summarized as follows:
!conducting and supporting scientific research in the Arctic and
!defending U.S. sovereignty in the Arctic by helping to maintain a
presence in the region;
!defending other U.S. interests in polar regions, including economic
interests relating to the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) north
!monitoring sea traffic in the Arctic, including ships bound for the
United States; and
!conducting other typical Coast Guard missions (such as search and
rescue, law enforcement, and protection of marine resources) in
Arctic waters, including U.S. territorial waters north of Alaska.
Supporting National Science Foundation (NSF) research activities in the Arctic
and Antarctic accounts for a significant portion of U.S. polar icebreaker operations.
Supporting NSF research in the Antarctic includes performing — or, in more recent
years, standing ready to assist in — an annual mission to break through the Antarctic
ice so as to resupply McMurdo Station, the large U.S. Antarctic research station
located on the shore of MucMurdo Sound, near the Ross Ice Shelf.
Although polar ice is melting due to climate change, observers generally expect
that this development will not eliminate the need for U.S. polar icebreakers, and in
some respects might increase mission demands for them. Even with the melting of
polar ice, there are still significant ice-covered areas in the polar regions. Melting of
polar ice could lead in coming years to increased commercial ship, cruise ship, and
naval surface ship operations, as well as increased exploration for oil and other
resources, in and through the polar regions — activities that could require increased
levels of support from polar icebreakers. Changing ice conditions in Antarctic waters
have made the McMurdo resupply mission more challenging since 2000.8
7 U.S. Coast Guard, Posture Statement With [FY] 2009 Budget In Brief, Washington, 2008.
(February 2008) pp. 33-34.
8 National Research Council, Polar Icebreakers in a Changing World, An Assessment of
U.S. Needs, Washington, 2007, pp. 6-7, 14, 63.
Current U.S. Polar Icebreakers
The U.S. polar icebreaker fleet currently includes four ships — three Coast
Guard ships and one ship operated by the NSF. The ships are described briefly
below, and then summarized in Table 1. Uses of the three Coast Guard polar
icebreakers in FY2005-FY2007 by operational hours are summarized in Table 2.
Three Coast Guard Ships. The Coast Guard’s three polar icebreakers are
multimission ships that can break through ice, support scientific research operations,
and perform other missions typically performed by Coast Guard ships.
Polar Star and Polar Sea. Polar Star (WAGB-10) and Polar Sea (WAGB-9
11), sister ships built to the same general design, were procured in the early 1970s
as replacements for earlier U.S. icebreakers. They were designed for 30-year service
lives, and were built by Lockheed Shipbuilding of Seattle, WA, a division of
Lockheed that also built ships for the U.S. Navy, but which exited the shipbuilding
business in the late 1980s.
The ships are 399 feet long and displace about 13,300 tons.10 They are the
world’s most powerful non-nuclear-powered icebreakers, with a capability to break
through ice up to 6 feet thick at a speed of 3 knots. In addition to a crew of 134, each
ship can embark a scientific research staff of up to 20 people.
Polar Star. Polar Star was commissioned into service on January 19, 1976, and
consequently is now beyond its intended 30-year service life. The ship currently is
not in operational condition due to worn out electric motors and other problems. The
Coast Guard placed the ship in caretaker status on July 1, 2006; it is tied up at a pier
in Seattle.11 Under caretaker status, the Coast Guard is retaining the ship as a non-
operational asset with a potential for being reactivated. The ship is assigned a
reduced crew of 34 that keeps the ship clean and painted and tests the ship’s
machinery on a periodic basis, but the ship is not moved, and the ship’s major
mechanical problems are not being repaired. Keeping the ship in caretaker status, the12
Coast Guard states, costs about $3 million per year. As discussed later in this
report, the ship would require millions of dollars of maintenance and repair work to
be returned to service.
Polar Sea. Polar Sea was commissioned into service on February 23, 1978,
and thus is also now beyond its intended 30-year service life. The ship is in
9 The designation WAGB means Coast Guard icebreaker. More specifically, W means
Coast Guard ship, A means auxiliary, G means miscellaneous purpose, and B means
10 By comparison, the Coast Guard’s new National Security Cutters — its new
high-endurance cutters — are about 418 feel long and displace roughly 4,000 tons.
11 The Coast Guard’s official term for the ship’s current status is “In Commission, Special.”
12 Source: Transcript of spoken remarks of Admiral Thad Allen at July 16, 2008, hearing on
Coast Guard icebreaking needs before the Coast Guard and Maritime transportation
subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
operational condition but due to its age requires increasing amounts of maintenance
to remain in operation.
Healy. Healy (WAGB-20) was procured in the early 1990s as a complement
to Polar Star and Polar Sea, and was commissioned into service on August 21, 2000.
The ship was built by Avondale Industries, a shipyard located near New Orleans, LA,
that has built numerous Coast Guard and Navy ships, and which now forms part of
Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding.
Healy is a bit larger than Polar Star and Polar Sea — it is 420 feet long and
displaces about 16,200 tons. Compared to Polar Star and Polar Sea, Healy has less
icebreaking capability, but more capability for supporting scientific research. The
ship can break through ice up to 4½ feet thick at a speed of 3 knots, and embark a
scientific research staff of up to 50. The ship is used primarily for supporting
scientific research in the Arctic.
One National Science Foundation Ship. The nation’s fourth polar
icebreaker is Nathaniel B. Palmer, which was built for the NSF in 1992 by North
American Shipbuilding, of Larose, LA. The ship, called Palmer for short, is owned
by Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO) of Galliano, LA, a firm that owns and operates
research ships and offshore deepwater service ships.13 NSF uses a contractor,
Raytheon Polar Services Company (RPSC), to lease the ship from ECO.14 Palmer
is considerably smaller than the Coast Guard’s three polar icebreakers — it is 308
feet long and has a displacement of about 6,500 tons. It is operated by a crew of
about 22, and can embark a scientific staff of 27 to 37.15
Unlike the Coast Guard’s three polar icebreakers, which are multimission ships,
Palmer was purpose-built as a single-mission ship for conducting and supporting
scientific research in the Antarctic. It has less icebreaking capability than the Coast
Guard’s polar icebreakers, being capable of breaking ice up to 3 feet thick at speeds
of 3 knots. This capability is sufficient for breaking through the more benign ice
conditions found in the vicinity of the Antarctic Peninsula, to resupply Palmer
Station, a U.S. research station on the peninsula. Some observers might view Palmer
not so much as an icebreaker as an oceanographic research ship with enough
icebreaking capability for the Antarctic Peninsula. Palmer’s icebreaking capability
is not considered sufficient to perform the MucMurdo resupply mission.
13 For more on ECO, see the firm’s website at [http://www.chouest.com/].
14 For more on RPSC, see the division’s website at [http://rpsc.raytheon.com/]
15 Sources vary on the exact number of scientific staff that can be embarked on Palmer. For
some basic information on the ship, see
[http://www.nsf.gov/ od/opp/support/nathpalm.j sp],
[http://nsf.gov/od/opp/antarct/tr eaty/ pdf/plans0607/15plan07.pdf],
[http://www.hazegr ay.org/ worldnav/ usa/nsf.htm] .
Table 1. U.S. Polar Icebreakers
Polar StarPolar SeaHealyPalmer
Operator USCG USCG USCG NSF
Currently in operationalNoYesYesYes
condi t i on? (caretaker
Icebreaking capability (ice6 feet6 feet4.5 feet3 feet
thickness in feet) at 3 knots
Crew (when operational)134b1346722
Additional scientific staff20205027-37
Sources: Prepared by CRS using data from U.S. Coast Guard, National Research Council, National
Science Foundation and (for Palmer) additional online reference sources.
a. Owned by Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO) of Galliano, LA, and leased to NSF through Raytheon
Polar Services Company (RPSC).
b. Currently assigned a caretaker crew of 34.
Table 2. Uses of Coast Guard Polar Icebreakers
(FY2005-FY2007, in mission hours)
MissionPolar StarPolar SeaHealy
area FY FY FY FY FY FY FY FY FY
05 06 07 05 06 07 05 06 07
Support 34 1 802 21 256 424 596
Total 2,066 1,642 0 1 802 2,818 3,819 3,634 3,620
Source: U.S. Coast Guard data provided to CRS on June 12 and 20, 2008.
Notes: SAR = search and rescue; ATON = aids to navigation; Ice Ops = ice operations,
polar icebreaking and domestic ice; MEP = marine environmental protection; LMR = living
marine resources; PWCS = ports, waterways, and coastal security; DR = defense readiness;
Support = includes operations such as training, public affairs, cooperation with federal,
state, and local agencies.
The Coast Guard states further that: “For CGC [Coast Guard Cutter] HEALY, all of the
Polar Operations hours are either transit to/from the operating area or scientific research. For
CGC POLAR SEA/POLAR STAR, all of the Polar Operations hours are transit to/from the
operating area, scientific research or mobility logistics (icebreaking for re-supply). We
estimate 25% transit / 75% scientific research for HEALY and 50% transit / 10% scientific
research / 40% mobility logistics for POLAR SEA/POLAR STAR.”
Summary. In summary, the U.S. polar icebreaking fleet currently includes one
ship that that is used primarily for scientific research in the Arctic (Healy), one ship
that is used for scientific research in the Antarctic (Palmer), one ship that can operate
in either polar area and is capable of performing the challenging McMurdo resupply
mission (Polar Sea), and a fourth ship with similar capabilities that is not in
operational condition and is in caretaker status (Polar Star).
NSF Funding for Icebreaker Operations and Maintenance
Since FY2006, costs for operating and maintaining the Coast Guard’s polar
icebreakers have been funded in the NSF’s budget rather than the Coast Guard’s
budget. The transfer of polar icebreaker operation and maintenance funding from the
Coast Guard’s budget to the NSF’s budget was requested by the administration as
part of its FY2006 budget submission, and approved by Congress as part of its action
on the FY2006 Coast Guard and NSF budgets. The transfer was made in view of the
fact that a large portion of the Coast Guard’s polar icebreaking operations are
conducted in support of NSF research activities. The funding arrangement is covered
by a 2005 memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Coast Guard and NSF.
Some observers have questioned whether it is appropriate for the operation and
maintenance of Coast Guard polar icebreakers to be funded through the NSF budget.
The 2007 NRC report, for example, states that the arrangement “has increased
management difficulties by spreading management decisions related to the polar
icebreakers across two agencies”; that “[t]he NSF is now fiscally responsible, and
making decisions, for missions outside its core mission and expertise”; and that “the
U.S. Coast Guard has been put in a situation in which it has the role of operating a
ship for which it does not have full budget and management control.”16
The issue was discussed at the July 16, 2008, hearing on Coast Guard icebreaker
needs. For additional discussion, see Appendix A.
A March 24, 2008 press report stated:
The Coast Guard splits responsibility for its icebreakers with the National
Science Foundation, which under a 2006 law pays to run and maintain the ships,
albeit with Coast Guard crews, after they were designated as primarily for
research purposes. But starting next year, the NSF doesn’t plan to continue
paying to maintain the oldest ship, the Polar Star, which has been in reserve
16 National Research Council, Polar Icebreakers in a Changing World, An Assessment of
U.S. Needs, Washington, 2007, p.101.
status since 2006. With no funding, the Polar Star would lose its skeleton crew17
and its capability to become operational with about 12 months’ notice.
2007 National Research Council Report
The most recent major study relating to Coast Guard polar icebreakers is the
2007 National Research Council (NRC) report, Polar Icebreakers in a Changing
World: An Assessment of U.S. Needs, which assessed roles and future needs for Coast
Guard polar icebreakers.18 The NRC is a part of the National Academies. The study
was completed in 2006 and published in 2007. Some sources refer to the study as the
Origin of Study. The study was required by report language accompanying
the FY2005 DHS appropriations act (H.R. 4567/P.L. 108-334).19 A hearing on the
report was held by the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation subcommittee of
the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on September 26, 2006.
17 Philip Ewing, “CG Steps Up Bid to Rescue Icebreaker Funding,” Navy Times, March 24,
18 National Research Council, Polar Icebreakers in a Changing World, An Assessment of
U.S. Needs, Washington, 2007, 122 pp.
19 H.R. 4567/P.L. 108-334 of October 18, 2004. The related Senate bill was S. 2537. The
Senate report on S. 2537 (S.Rept. 108-280 of June 17, 2004) stated:
The Committee expects the Commandant to enter into an arrangement with
the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a comprehensive study of the role
of Coast Guard icebreakers in supporting United States operations in the
Antarctic and the Arctic. The study should include different scenarios for
continuing those operations including service life extension or replacement of
existing Coast Guard icebreakers and alternative methods that do not use Coast
Guard icebreakers. The study should also address changes in the roles and
missions of Coast Guard icebreakers in support of future marine operations in the
Arctic that may develop due to environmental change, including the amount and
kind of icebreaking support that may be required in the future to support marine
operations in the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage; the suitability
of the Polar Class icebreakers for these new roles; and appropriate changes in
existing laws governing Coast Guard icebreaking operations and the potential for
new operating regimes. The study should be submitted to the Committee no later
than September 30, 2005.
The conference report on H.R. 4567 (H.Rept. 108-774 of October 9, 2004) stated:
As discussed in the Senate report and the Coast Guard authorization bill for
fiscal year 2005, the conferees require the National Academy of Sciences to
study the role of Coast Guard icebreakers.
The earlier House report on H.R. 4567 (H.Rept. 108-541 of June 15, 2004) contained
language directing a similar report from the Coast Guard rather than the National
Academies. (See the passage in the House report under the header “Icebreaking.”)
Conclusions and Recommendations. The NRC report makes the
following conclusions and recommendations:
The [study] committee finds that both operations and maintenance of the
polar icebreaker fleet have been underfunded for many years, and the capabilities
of the nation’s icebreaking fleet have diminished substantially. Deferred
long-term maintenance and failure to execute a plan for replacement or
refurbishment of the nation’s icebreaking ships have placed national interests in
the polar regions at risk. The nation needs the capability to operate in both polar
regions reliably and at will. Specifically, the committee recommends the
The United States should continue to project an active and influential
presence in the Arctic to support its interests. This requires U.S. government
polar icebreaking capability to ensure year-round access throughout the region.
The United States should continue to project an active and influential
presence in the Antarctic to support its interests. The nation should reliably
control sufficient icebreaking capability to break a channel into and ensure the
maritime resupply of McMurdo Station.
The United States should maintain leadership in polar research. This
requires icebreaking capability to provide access to the deep Arctic and the
ice-covered waters of the Antarctic.
National interests in the polar regions require that the United States
immediately program, budget, design, and construct two new polar icebreakers
to be operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.
To provide continuity of U.S. icebreaking capabilities, the POLAR SEA
should remain mission capable and the POLAR STAR should remain available
for reactivation until the new polar icebreakers enter service.
The U.S. Coast Guard should be provided sufficient operations and
maintenance budget to support an increased, regular, and influential presence in
the Arctic. Other agencies should reimburse incremental costs associated with
directed mission tasking.
Polar icebreakers are essential instruments of U.S. national policy in the
changing polar regions. To ensure adequate national icebreaking capability into
the future, a Presidential Decision Directive should be issued to clearly align20
agency responsibilities and budgetary authorities.
Coast Guard Perspective. The Coast Guard states it “generally supports”
the NRC report, and that the Coast Guard “is working closely with interagency
partners to determine a way forward with national polar policy that identifies broad
U.S. interests and priorities in the Arctic and Antarctic that will ensure adequate
maritime presence to further these interests. Identification and prioritization of U.S.
national interests in these regions should drive development of associated USCG
[U.S. Coast Guard] capability and resource requirements.” The Coast Guard also
20 National Research Council, Polar Icebreakers in a Changing World, An Assessment of
U.S. Needs, Washington, 2007, pp. 2-3.
states: “Until those broad U.S. interests and priorities are identified, the current USG
[U.S. Government] polar icebreaking fleet should be maintained in an operational
Current Coast Guard Plan
As mentioned earlier, the Coast Guard is conducting studies on replacements
for Polar Star and Polar Sea. Under the Coast Guard’s current schedule, the first
replacement ship might enter service in 8 to 10 years. Until then, the Coast Guard
plans to continue operating Polar Sea and Healy while keeping Polar Star, for the
time being at least, in caretaker status as a reserve asset. Regarding its current plan
for modernizing its polar icebreaker fleet, the Coast Guard states that it:
is awaiting the identification and prioritization of U.S. national policy in the
Polar Regions in order to identify and develop the appropriate capability. In the
meantime, the CG is proceeding with pre-acquisition activities, starting with
project identification, to assess current capability gaps in Coast Guard mission22
performance in the high latitudes regions.
A March 24, 2008 press report states:
[Coast Guard] Commanders in Alaska plan to conduct an unprecedented
expedition to the Arctic this summer, including a trip already underway by the
Healy, to get a clear sense of their capabilities and problems operating above the
Bering Strait. When that survey is finished, probably by August, [Coast Guard
Commandant Admiral Thad] Allen and the commander of District 17, Rear Adm.
Arthur “Gene” Brooks, will be able to make their case to Congress for funding23
and new gear, Allen said.
Cost Estimates for Certain Modernization Options
The Coast Guard in February 2008 provided CRS with cost estimates for four
potential options for modernizing the Coast Guard’s polar icebreaker fleet:24
New Replacement Ships. The Coast Guard estimated in February 2008 that
new replacement ships for the Polar Star and Polar Sea might cost between $800
million and $925 million per ship in 2008 dollars to procure. The Coast Guard said
that this estimate:
21 Source: Coast Guard point paper provided to CRS on February 12, 2008, and dated with
the same date, providing answers to questions from CRS concerning polar icebreaker
22 Source: Coast Guard point paper provided to CRS on February 12, 2008, op cit.
23 Philip Ewing, “CG Steps Up Bid to Rescue Icebreaker Funding,” Navy Times, March 24,
24 Source for information and quotations in this section: Coast Guard point paper provided
to CRS on February 12, 2008, op cit.
is based on a ship with integrated electric drive, three propellers, and a combined
diesel and gas (electric) propulsion plant. The icebreaking capability would be
equivalent to the POLAR Class Icebreakers [i.e., Polar Star and Polar Sea] and
research facilities and accommodations equivalent to HEALY. This cost
includes all shipyard and government project costs. Total time to procure a new
icebreaker [including mission analysis, studies, design, contract award, and25
construction] is eight to ten years.
The Coast Guard further stated that this notional new ship would be designed
for a 30-year service life.
As discussed in the “Legislative Activity” section, the Congressional Budget
Office (CBO), as part of its estimate of the cost of Section 917 of S. 1892 (the Coast
Guard Authorization Act for FY2008) as reported in the Senate, has estimated that
the Coast Guard “would spend about $1.4 billion over the next five years to purchase26
25-Year Service Life Extensions. One alternative to procuring new
replacement ships would be to extend the service lives of Polar Star and Polar Sea.
The Coast Guard stated in February 2008 that performing the extensive maintenance,
repair, and modernization work needed to extend the service lives of the two ships
by 25 years might cost roughly $400 million per ship. This figure, the Coast Guard
said, is based on assessments made by independent contractors for the Coast Guard
in 2004. The service life extension work, the Coast Guard said, would improve the
two icebreakers’ installed systems in certain areas. Although the work would be
intended to permit the ships to operate for another 25 years, it would not return the
cutters to new condition.
Reactivate Polar Star for 7 to 10 Years. The Coast Guard estimated in
February 2008 that it would cost $56.6 million to perform the maintenance and repair
work needed to reactivate Polar Star and extend its service life by 7 to 10 years,
which is the approximate amount of time that would transpire under the Coast
Guard’s plan before a new replacement ship enters service. On July 16, 2008, the
Coast Guard similarly testified that cost of extending the ship’s service life by 7 to
10 years would be “into the $60 million range.”27 The work would include system
upgrades that have been installed in recent years on the Polar Sea but not the Polar
25 The Coast Guard states further that the estimate is based on the procurement cost of the
Mackinaw (WAGB-30), a Great Lakes icebreaker that was procured a few years ago and
commissioned into service with the Coast Guard in June 2006. The Mackinaw is 240 feet
long, displaces 3,500 tons, and can break ice up to 2 feet, 8 inches thick at speeds of 3 knots,
which is suitable for Great Lakes icebreaking. The Coast Guard says it scaled up the
procurement cost for the Mackinaw in proportion to its size compared to that of a polar
icebreaker, and then adjusted the resulting figure to account for the above-described
capabilities of the notional replacement ship and recent construction costs at U.S. Gulf Coast
26 S.Rept. 110-261 of February 5, 2008, page 8. See also pages 6 and 7.
27 Source: Transcript of spoken remarks of Admiral Thad Allen at July 16, 2008, hearing on
Coast Guard icebreaking needs before the Coast Guard and Maritime transportation
subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Star. An additional cost would be incurred to create and train a full 134-person crew
for the ship.
As discussed in the “Legislative Activity” section, CBO, as part of its estimate
of the cost of Section 917 of S. 1892 (the Coast Guard Authorization Act for
FY2008) as reported in the Senate, has estimated that “$50 million would be spent
over the [FY]2008-[FY]2010 period to recondition an existing USCG icebreaker,
which is currently out of operation.”28
Reactivate Polar Star for a Single Deployment. The Coast Guard
estimated in February 2008 that it would cost $8.2 million to perform the
maintenance and repair work needed to reactivate the Polar Star and make it ready
for a single Deep Freeze deployment, meaning a deployment to Antarctica, such as
the McMurdo resupply mission. On July 16, 2008, the Coast Guard provided a29
slightly different figure, testifying that the work would cost $8.6 million. The work,
the Coast Guard says, would require between 12 months and 18 months to perform.
Roughly half of the cost, the Coast Guard says, would be to rebuild the ship’s worn
out electric motors. As with the previous option, an additional cost would be
incurred to create and train a full 134-person crew for the ship.
U.S. Shipbuilding Industrial Base
The status of the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base, particularly the part that
builds military ships for the U.S. government, has been a concern in Congress and
elsewhere since the early 1990s, following the end of the Cold War, when the rate of
Navy shipbuilding declined substantially. Concern has focused on, among other
things, whether the total amount of work being received by shipyards is sufficient to30
maintain their financial health and to preserve key design and construction skills.
Other things held equal, construction of one or more new polar icebreakers for the
Coast Guard could increase workloads at the yard or yards involved in their
construction for a period of a few or several years.
Issues for Congress
The issue of Coast Guard polar icebreaker modernization presents several
potential policy issues for Congress, including but not necessarily limited to those
28 S.Rept. 110-261 of February 5, 2008, page 8.
29 Source: Transcript of spoken remarks of Admiral Thad Allen at July 16, 2008, hearing on
Coast Guard icebreaking needs before the Coast Guard and Maritime transportation
subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
30 In addition, certain shipyards on the U.S. Gulf Coast, including shipyards that build or
have built ships for the Navy and the Coast Guard, sustained damage to their production
facilities and workforces as a result of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The affected
yards have since recovered or are now completing their recovery from this damage.
Number and Capabilities of Future Polar Icebreakers
One potential policy issue for Congress concerns how many polar icebreakers,
with what capabilities, the Coast Guard will need in the future. Specific questions
within this issue include the following:
!Will the Coast Guard need two polar icebreakers (the number it
currently has in operational condition), three polar icebreakers (the
number it currently has in inventory), or some higher number?
!Should new icebreakers be designed to cut through ice up to six feet
thick, like Polar Star and Polar Sea, or less than six feet thick (like
Healy and many foreign icebreakers), or more than six feet thick
(like certain Russian icebreakers)?31
!Should new icebreakers be designed with the scientific research
capabilities less than, greater than, or about equal to those of Healy?
In assessing this issue, factors that Congress may consider include, but are not
limited to, the following:
!current and projected mission demands for Coast Guard polar
icebreakers, including an assessment of how those demands might
be affected in coming years by changing ice conditions and by future
NSF decisions on how to acquire icebreaking services to support its
!the potential for various mission demands (not just those conducted
in support of NSF research activities) to be met by non-Coast Guard
icebreakers, including leases or charters of icebreakers owned by
foreign governments or private firms; and
!the Coast Guard’s overall missions-vs.-resources situation, which
includes the Coast Guard’s requirements to perform many non-polar
missions and the Coast Guard’s desire to fund programs, such as the
Deepwater acquisition program, for performing these non-polar
31 A recently completed Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker called 50 Let Pobedy that is
524 feet long and displaces about 25,000 tons is reportedly capable of breaking through ice
up to 2.8 meters (about 9.2 feet) thick, though not necessarily at a speed of 3 knots.
Somewhat smaller nuclear-powered Russian icebreakers of the Arktika class, such as Yamal,
reportedly can break through ice up to 2.3 meters (about 7.5 feet) thick at a speed of 3 knots.
Yamal displaces about 23,500 tons. (Sources: [http://sr.se/cgi-bin/euroarctic/amnessida.asp?
programID=2460&Nyheter= 0&grupp=2604&artikel=1219680], [http://en.rian.ru/russia/
32 For more on the Deepwater program, see CRS Report RL33753, Coast Guard Deepwater
Regarding the first factor above, the NSF states that although Coast Guard polar
icebreakers are very capable, the NSF is mandated by presidential directive to
perform its research activities in the most cost-effective way possible, and that it can
be more expensive for NSF to support its research activities with Coast Guard polar
icebreakers than with charters of icebreakers crewed by contractor personnel.
Although Coast Guard polar icebreakers in the past have performed the annual
McMurdo break-in mission, the NSF in recent years has chartered Russian and
Swedish contractor-operated icebreakers to perform the mission (with a Coast Guard
polar icebreaker standing ready to assist if needed). The NSF has also noted that
Healy, though very capable in supporting Arctic research, operates at sea for about
200 days a year, as opposed to about 300 days a year for foreign contractor-operated
polar icebreakers. For additional discussion of the issue, see Appendix B.
Regarding the second factor above, issues to consider would include, among
other things, the potential availability of ships for lease, leasing costs, regulatory
issues relating to long-term leases of capital assets for the U.S. government, and the
ability of leased ships to perform the missions in question, including the mission of
defending U.S. sovereignty in Arctic waters north of Alaska, the challenging
McMurdo resupply mission, or missions that emerge suddenly in response to
Advocates of a Coast Guard polar icebreaker fleet that included two ships —
that is, Healy and one other ship — might argue that the Coast Guard has been able
to operate with such a force since the Polar Star went into caretaker status on July 1,
2006, and that a force with Healy and one other ship would cost less than a larger
icebreaker fleet and thereby permit the Coast Guard to better fund programs for
performing its various non-polar missions.
Advocates of a Coast Guard fleet that included three ships — Healy and two
other icebreakers — might argue that the current force of Healy and one other
operational ship has made it more difficult for the Coast Guard to perform the
McMurdo resupply mission using its own assets, that a force that included Healy and
two other ships would provide the Coast Guard with more flexibility for responding
to contingencies or dealing with mechanical problems on one of the icebreakers, and
that it would still be sufficiently affordable to permit the Coast Guard to adequately
fund programs for performing non-polar missions.
Advocates of a Coast Guard fleet that included Healy and three or more other
icebreakers might argue that such a fleet would provide additional capability for
responding to potentially increased commercial and military activities in the Arctic,
Program: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke.
33 The potential for using leased ships, and the possible limitations of this option, are
discussed at several points in the 2007 NRC report. The report argues, among other things,
that the availability of icebreakers for lease in coming years is open to question, that leased
ships are not optimal for performing sovereignty-related operations, and that some foreign
icebreakers might be capable of performing the McMurdo resupply mission. See, for
example, pages 80-81 of the NRC report.
and more strongly signal U.S. commitment to defending its sovereignty and other
interests in the region. They might argue that although this option would be more
expensive than a smaller fleet, the added investment would be justified in light of the
growing focus on U.S. polar interests.
The 2007 NRC report provided one perspective on the issue of required
numbers and capabilities for U.S. polar icebreakers, stating:
Based on the current and future needs for icebreaking capabilities, the
[study] committee concludes that the nation continues to require a polar
icebreaking fleet that includes a minimum of three multimission ships [like the
Coast Guard’s three current polar icebreakers] and one single-mission [research]
ship [like Palmer]. The committee finds that although the demand for
icebreaking capability is predicted to increase, a fleet of three multimission and
one single-mission icebreakers can meet the nation’s future polar icebreaking
needs through the application of the latest technology, creative crewing models,
wise management of ice conditions, and more efficient use of the icebreaker fleet
and other assets. The nation should immediately begin to program, design, and
construct two new polar icebreakers to replace the POLAR STAR and POLAR
Building only one new polar icebreaker is insufficient for several reasons.
First, a single ship cannot be in more than one location at a time. No matter how
technologically advanced or efficiently operated, a single polar icebreaker can
operate in the polar regions for only a portion of any year. An icebreaker requires
regular maintenance and technical support from shipyards and industrial
facilities, must reprovision regularly, and has to effect periodic crew changeouts.
A single icebreaker, therefore, could not meet any reasonable standard of active
and influential presence and reliable, at-will access throughout the polar regions.
A second consideration is the potential risk of failure in the harsh
conditions of polar operations. Despite their intrinsic robustness, damage and
system failure are always a risk and the U.S. fleet must have enough depth to
provide backup assistance. Having only a single icebreaker would necessarily
require the ship to accept a more conservative operating profile, avoiding more
challenging ice conditions because reliable assistance would not be available. A
second capable icebreaker, either operating elsewhere or in homeport, would
provide ensured backup assistance and allow for more robust operations by the
From a strategic, longer-term perspective, two new Polar class icebreakers
will far better position the nation for the increasing challenges emerging in both
polar regions. A second new ship would allow the U.S. Coast Guard to
reestablish an active patrol presence in U.S. waters north of Alaska to meet
statutory responsibilities that will inevitably derive from increased human
activity, economic development, and environmental change. It would allow
response to emergencies such as search-and-rescue cases, pollution incidents, and
assistance to ships threatened with grounding or damage by ice. Moreover, a
second new ship will leverage the possibilities for simultaneous operations in
widely disparate geographic areas (e.g., concurrent operations in the Arctic and
Antarctic), provide more flexibility for conducting Antarctic logistics (as either
the primary or the secondary ship for the McMurdo break-in), allow safer
multiple-ship operations in the most demanding ice conditions, and increase
opportunities for international expeditions. Finally, an up-front decision to build
two new polar icebreakers will allow economies in the design and construction34
process and provide a predictable cost reduction for the second ship.
The position expressed in the NRC report, which is consistent with the report’s
recommendations, is one perspective on this issue; other perspectives are possible.
As mentioned earlier, the Coast Guard, while generally agreeing with the NRC
report, is currently studying requirements for future polar icebreakers. It is possible
that the Coast Guard’s eventual position on required numbers and capabilities of
Coast Guard polar icebreakers will differ in some respects from those of the NRC
report. It is also possible that third parties might come to positions that differ from
those of both the NRC report and the Coast Guard.
New Construction vs. Modernization
A second potential policy issue for Congress is whether requirements for polar
icebreakers over the next 25 to 30 years should be met by building new ships, by
extending the service lives of the Polar Star and Polar Sea, or by pursuing some
combination of these options. In assessing this question, factors to consider include
the relative costs of these options, the capabilities that each option would provide, the
long-term supportability of older ships whose service lives have been extended, and
Regarding relative costs, as discussed in the Background section, the Coast
Guard estimates that new icebreakers with a 30-year design life might cost $800
million to $925 million per ship, while a 25-year service life extension of Polar Star
and Polar Sea might cost about $400 million per ship. These estimates, however,
should be compared with caution. As discussed earlier, the estimate for building new
ships depends in part on the capabilities that were assumed for those ships, while the
estimate for the service-life-extension option dates to 2004 and might consequently
need to be reassessed. Estimates for service-life extension work, moreover, can be
very uncertain due to the potential for discovering new things about a ship’s
condition once the ship is opened up for repair work.
Regarding capabilities provided by each option, the new-construction option
would provide entirely new ships with extensive use of new technology, while the
service-life-extension option would provide ships that, although modernized and
reconditioned, would not be entirely new and would likely make less extensive use
of new technologies. Among other things, new-construction ships might be able to
make more extensive use of new technologies for reducing crew size, which is a
significant factor in a ship’s life cycle operating and support costs.
Regarding long-term supportability of older ships, the Coast Guard has
expressed concern about the ability to support ships whose service lives have been
34 National Research Council, Polar Icebreakers in a Changing World, An Assessment of
U.S. Needs, Washington, 2007, p. 2.
extended after FY2014, because some contracts that currently provide that support
are scheduled to end that year.35
Regarding potential impact on the industrial base, 25-year service life extensions
would likely provide shipyards and supplier firms with less work, and also exercise
a smaller set of shipyard construction skills, than would building new ships.
Acceleration of Current Schedule
A third potential policy option for Congress, if it is determined that one or more
new ships should be built, is whether to accelerate the Coast Guard’s current
schedule for building those ships. One option for accelerating the schedule would
be to shorten the current phase for studying the requirements for the new ships and
move directly to procurement of the first new ship. Another acceleration option, if
the Coast Guard contemplates procuring two or more replacement ships, would be
to fund a second ship (and any subsequent ships) sooner than the Coast Guard might
propose. Both of these options could be combined. In the case of a two-ship
procurement, for example, one highly accelerated profile would be to procure both
ships as part of the FY2009 budget, rather than the first ship in a year after FY2009,
and the second ship one or more years after that.
Advocates of accelerated procurement might argue the following:
!It could reduce the total cost over the next several years of operating
the Polar Sea and maintaining the Polar Star in caretaker status by
reducing the number of years that those costs would be incurred
before the replacement ships enter service.
!Accelerating procurement of at least the first replacement ship to
FY2009 would ensure that at least one replacement ship would be
funded prior to the approaching change in Administration — an
event, advocates might argue, that could lead to delays in acquisition
programs for which major procurement funding has not yet been
!Shortening the period for studying requirements for new icebreakers
would be acceptable because these requirements are already well
understood due to extensive past operational experience, an
understanding of current mission demands, and studies on current
and potential future demands such as the 2007 NRC report.
!Any remaining uncertainties about required capabilities, such as,
perhaps, the extent of the new ships’ scientific research facilities,
could be addressed in an accelerated program by reserving space and
weight in the design for accommodating such facilities.
35 Source: CRS discussion with Coast Guard officials, January 30, 2008.
!Accelerating the procurement of the second ship and any subsequent
ships could reduce the total procurement cost of the ships by
allowing contractors to achieve better economies of scale in terms
of things like ordering materials, manufacturing components, and
achieving optimal learning-curve benefits in moving from one ship
to the next.
Opponents of this option might argue the following:
!The cost over the next several years for operating the Polar Sea and
maintaining the Polar Star in caretaker status is relatively modest, so
shortening the period during which these costs are incurred by a year
or two will consequently produce only modest savings. These
modest savings are not worth the risk that a shortened period for
studying new requirements might overlook important issues or
considerations that, if left unaddressed, could lead to the
construction of new icebreakers that are less operationally effective
or cost-effective than they could be.
!The best way to ensure that the icebreaker modernization program
is not delayed by the approaching change in Administration is to
show that the issue has been thoroughly studied and that the
recommended course of action is thus well-founded.
!Although past operational experience, an understanding of current
mission demands, and previous studies can inform an understanding
of future mission requirements, that understanding might not be
complete, particularly given changing conditions in the polar
regions, future NSF decisions on how to acquire icebreaking
services to support its research activities, and the need to take the
views of U.S. government agencies other than the Coast Guard into
!Uncertainties about the ships’ required capabilities cannot be
completely mitigated by reserving space and weight for certain
features, and reserving such space and weight might result in a
design that is larger and more expensive than needed.
!Accelerating the program is not necessary to achieve a procurement
profile that permits the ships to be constructed in an efficient and
A fourth potential policy option for Congress, if it is determined that one or
more new ships should be built, is whether those ships should be nuclear-powered,
as are 7 of Russia’s 20 polar or Baltic icebreakers.36 Some interest has been
expressed in Congress in using nuclear power on a wider array of U.S. Navy surface
ships in the future, and Section 1012 of the FY2008 defense authorization act (H.R.
4986/P.L. 110-181) makes it U.S. policy to build certain future classes of U.S. Navy
surface combatants with nuclear power unless the Secretary of Defense submits a
notification to Congress that using nuclear power for a given new ship class is not in
the national interest. The issue of nuclear power for U.S. Navy surface ships is
discussed in detail in another CRS report.37
Advocates of building new Coast Guard polar icebreakers with nuclear power
might argue the following:
!Nuclear power would provide the icebreakers with operational
advantages in terms of virtually unlimited cruising endurance at any
speed. Such endurance could permit the ships, for example, to make
high-speed sprints from one polar region to the other, so as to
respond to sudden contingencies, without needing to stop or slow
down along the way to be refueled. These operational advantages
are one reason why Russia has built some of its polar icebreakers
with nuclear power.
!If oil costs in the future remain relatively high, and if the icebreakers
consume significant total amounts of energy over their 30-year lives
to perform their missions, then much or perhaps even all of the
additional procurement cost of nuclear power could be offset over
the ships lives by avoided fossil-fuel costs.
!Building icebreakers with nuclear power could improve economies
of scale in the production of nuclear propulsion components for U.S.
Navy nuclear-powered ships, reducing the costs of those Navy ships,
which would further offset, from a national standpoint, the
additional procurement cost of nuclear power for the icebreakers.
!Due to the additional up-front costs and increased operational
capabilities of building a ship with nuclear power, building U.S.
nuclear-powered icebreakers could send a strong signal to Russia or
other countries of U.S. commitment to defending its polar interests,
particularly in the Arctic.
Opponents of building new Coast Guard polar icebreakers with nuclear power
might argue the following:
36 Source: National Research Council, Polar Icebreakers in a Changing World, An
Assessment of U.S. Needs, Washington, 2007, p. 59 (Table 6.4). These figures include a
nuclear-powered icebreaker named 50 Let Pobedy that reportedly entered service in early
2007, and two conventionally powered Russian icebreakers that, at the time of the 2007
NRC study, were leased to the Netherlands.
37 CRS Report RL33946, Navy Nuclear-Powered Surface Ships: Background, Issues, and
Options for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke.
!Although nuclear power provides operational advantages in terms of
unrefueled cruising endurance, conventional power has proven
sufficient for performing U.S. polar icebreaker missions. Russia’s
requirements for its icebreakers differ from U.S. requirements for its
icebreakers, so Russia’s decision to build some of its icebreakers
with nuclear power does not necessarily imply that the United States
should do the same.
!Based on data in a 2006 Navy report to Congress on nuclear power
for Navy surface ships, building a U.S. icebreaker with nuclear
power rather than conventional power might increase its
procurement cost by several hundred million dollars.38 That
additional cost might not loom very large for a Navy surface
combatant that might cost $2 billion to $3 billion even when
conventionally powered, but it might increase by as much as two-
thirds the procurement cost of an icebreaker that might otherwise
cost $800 million to $925 million to procure. In a situation of
constrained budget resources, such an increase in procurement cost
could easily result in the procurement of one replacement icebreaker
rather than two. A single icebreaker, even one with nuclear power,
might not be enough to meet future U.S. needs.
!The Coast Guard has not operated nuclear-powered ships and
consequently does not have a maintenance or training infrastructure
in place to support the operation of such ships. The Coast Guard
would need to either create this infrastructure (which would require
time and money) or pay the Navy to use its infrastructure.
!The U.S. can send a sufficiently strong signal of its commitment to
defending its polar interests by building new, highly capable,
conventionally powered polar icebreakers.
Funding Ships in Coast Guard Budget or Elsewhere
A fifth potential policy option for Congress, if it is determined that one or more
new icebreakers should be built, is whether the acquisition cost of those ships should
be funded entirely through Coast Guard’s Acquisition, Construction, and
Improvements (AC&I) account, or partly or entirely through other parts of the federal
budget, such as the Department of Defense (DOD) budget, the NSF budget, or both.39
38 As discussed in CRS Report RL33946, the 2006 Navy report concluded, among other
things, that in constant FY2007 dollars, building a Navy surface combatant or amphibious
ship with nuclear power rather than conventional power would add roughly $600 million to
$800 million to its procurement cost. A nuclear power plant for a polar icebreaker might
be smaller and consequently cost somewhat less than the nuclear power plant in the Navy
39 For more on the NSF, whose budget is normally funded through the annual Commerce,
Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, see CRS Report 95-307, U.S.
Within the DOD budget, possibilities include the Navy’s shipbuilding account, called
the Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy (SCN) account, and the National Defense
Sealift Fund (NDSF), which is an account where DOD sealift ships and Navy
auxiliary ships are funded.
There is precedent for funding Coast Guard icebreakers in the DOD budget: The
procurement of Healy was funded in the FY1990 in the DOD budget — specifically,
the SCN account.40 Advocates of funding new icebreakers partly or entirely through
the SCN account or the NDSF might argue that this could permit the funding of new
icebreakers while putting less pressure on other parts of the Coast Guard’s budget.
They might also argue that it would permit the new icebreaker program to benefit
from the Navy’s experience in managing shipbuilding programs. Opponents might
argue that funding new icebreakers in the SCN account or the NDSF might put
pressure on these other two accounts at a time when the Navy and DOD are facing
challenges funding their own shipbuilding and other priorities. They might also
argue that having the Navy manage the Coast Guard’s icebreaker program would add
complexity to the acquisition effort, and that it is unclear whether the Navy’s recent
performance in managing shipbuilding programs is better than the Coast Guard’s,
since both services have recently experienced problems in managing shipbuilding
programs — the Coast Guard with the procurement of new cutters under the
Deepwater program, and the Navy in the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program and
the LPD-17 class amphibious ship program.41
At the July 16, 2008, hearing on Coast Guard icebreaker needs, Dr. Arden
Bement, Jr., Director of NSF, when asked whether he would deem it prudent to
contribute capital costs for the building of a new icebreaker, replied, “I think at this
point, based on my understanding of the mission space, that the Coast Guard has,
especially with the opening up of the Arctic over time, that it would be a prudent
course of action.”42
Reactivating Polar Star as Interim Measure
A sixth potential policy option for Congress, if it is determined that one or more
new icebreakers should be built, is whether, as an additional interim measure, Polar
National Science Foundation: An Overview, by Christine M. Matthews.
40 The FY1990 DOD appropriations act (H.R. 3072/P.L. 101-165 of November 21, 1989)
provided $329 million for the procurement of Healy in the SCN account. (See pages 77 and
78 of H.Rept. 101-345 of November 13, 1989). The NDSF was created three years later, in
FY1993, as a fund for procuring DOD sealift ships, among other purposes, and since
FY2001 has been used to fund Navy auxiliary ships as well.
41 For more on the Deepwater, LCS, and LPD-17 programs, see CRS Report RL33753,
Coast Guard Deepwater Program: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for
Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke, CRS Report RL33741, Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)
Program: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke,
and CRS Report RL32513, Navy-Marine Corps Amphibious and Maritime Prepositioning
Ship Programs: Background and Oversight Issues for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke.
42 Source: Transcript of hearing.
Star should be reactivated for either one additional deployment or for multiple
deployments over the next 7 to 10 years. In assessing this issue, factors to consider
would include the following, among others:
!the cost to reactivate Polar Star for either a single additional
deployment or for an additional 7 to 10 years of operations;
!the additional time and cost needed to create and train a full 134-
person crew for Polar Star;
!the ability of the Coast Guard to perform its polar missions in
coming years with Polar Sea and Healy; and
!the likelihood that a major mechanical breakdown or some other
event could put Polar Star or Healy temporarily out of operation.
With regard to the first item above, as discussed in the Background section, the
Coast Guard testified in July 2008 that it would cost $8.6 million to reactivate Polar
Star and make it ready for a single additional deployment, and estimated in February
2008 that it would cost $56.6 million to reactivate Polar Star and make it ready for
7 to 10 additional years of operation. There would be an additional cost to create and
train a full 134-member crew for Polar Star, and additional operational costs to
undertake deployments, such as costs for fuel.
Options for Congress
Potential options for Congress, several of which arise out of the policy issues
discussed in the previous section, include but are not limited to those listed below.
Some of the options could be combined. The options are as follows:
!approve the Coast Guard’s current plan to study requirements for
future icebreakers and then derive an acquisition strategy based on
the results of these studies — a plan that might result in an initial
replacement icebreaker entering service 8 to 10 years from now;
!hold hearings to solicit additional information on the issue of polar
icebreaker modernization; or direct the Coast Guard to provide such
!direct the Coast Guard to include the option of nuclear power in its
studies of requirements and design options for future icebreakers;
!direct the Coast Guard to pursue a particular acquisition strategy for
icebreaker modernization, such as new construction, 25-year service
life extension, or some combination of these two approaches;
!accelerate the procurement of new icebreakers relative to the Coast
Guard’s current plan by shortening the study period, procuring
multiple ships in a single fiscal year, or both;
!fund the procurement of new icebreakers partly or entirely in the
DOD budget, the NSF budget, or both, rather than entirely in the
Coast Guard’s budget; and
!as a risk-mitigation measure, direct the Coast Guard to reactivate
Polar Star and make it ready for either a single additional
deployment or for another 7 to 10 years of operations.
Recent Legislative Activity
FY2009 DHS Appropriations Act (H.R. 2638/P.L. 110-329)
House. The House Appropriations Committee, in its report (H.Rept. 110-862
of September 18, 2008) on the FY2009 DHS appropriations bill (H.R. 6947), states:
POLAR ICEBREAKING OPERATING AND MAINTENANCE COSTS AND
FUTURE POLAR NEEDS
The Committee is concerned about Coast Guard’s ability to meet its polar
operations mission requirements and provide the United States with the
capability to support national interests in the polar regions. The Committee
provides $200,000, as requested, to conduct an analysis of national mission needs
in the high latitude regions to inform the national polar policy debate.
In fiscal year 2006 the Committees on Appropriations approved an
Administration request for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the primary
user of the three Coast Guard polar icebreaker vessels, to fund the costs of
operating and maintaining these aging vessels. Because it has become more
apparent that the national interest in the polar regions extends beyond scientific
research, the Committee questions whether this arrangement should continue.
Accordingly, the Committee directs Coast Guard and NSF to renegotiate the
existing agreement in order to return the budget for operating and maintaining
these vessels to Coast Guard for fiscal year 2010. This change is consistent with
a new joint plan for Coast Guard support of scientific research by NSF and other
Federal agencies, which also is to be included in the 2010 budget request. NSF
shall retain responsibility for the contracting of scientific support services that
Coast Guard does not have the capability to perform or cannot perform on a
cost-competitive basis. The Committee is aware of a $4,000,000 funding shortfall
related to the caretaker status of the POLAR STAR, and directs Coast Guard to
address this shortfall within the amounts appropriated for fiscal year 2009. (Page
Senate. The FY2009 DHS appropriations bill (S. 3181) as reported by the
Senate appropriations committee makes available about $6.28 billion for the Coast
Guard’s Operating Expenses (OE) account, provided, among other things, “that
notwithstanding any other provision of law, $4,000,000 of the amounts made
available under this heading may be available to maintain the USCGC POLAR
STAR in caretaker status....”
The Senate Appropriations Committee, in its report (S.Rept. 110-396 of June
The Committee reiterates its concern with the Coast Guard’s ability to meet
its current and projected polar operations responsibilities. According to
correspondence from the Commandant on May 23, 2008, the Coast Guard will
submit a report on polar mission requirements no later than August 31, 2008. The
Committee expects this report to address the concerns detailed in the explanatory
statement accompanying the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations
Act, 2008. The Committee also expects all costs to operate the polar icebreakers
for National Science Foundation [NSF] research, including unanticipated
maintenance, will be reimbursed by NSF. However, the Committee notes that the
NSF budget request states, “Effective with the fiscal year 2009 budget, NSF will
no longer provide funds to maintain the USCGC Polar Star in caretaker status
because NSF does not envision current or future use of this vessel in support of
its mission.” Due to the changing environmental conditions and increased
activity in the polar regions, as well as the Coast Guard’s multi-mission
responsibilities in the polar regions that are not science related, the Committee
includes statutory language making an additional $4,000,000 available to
maintain the USCGC Polar Star in caretaker status. The Committee also notes
that the forthcoming report on Coast Guard polar mission requirements will
address the sustainability of the current operations and maintenance cost sharing
arrangement between the Coast Guard and the NSF to support both current and
projected polar icebreaker operations. (Page 81)
Compromise. The FY2009 DHS appropriations bill became Division D of
H.R. 2638/P.L. 110-329 of September 30, 2008, a consolidated appropriations act.
H.R. 2638 began as a DHS appropriations act and was then amended to become a
consolidated appropriations act that contained that includes, among other things, the
FY2009 DHS appropriations act. In lieu of a conference report, there was a
compromise version of H.R. 2638 that was accompanied by an explanatory
statement. Section 4 of H.R. 2638 states that the explanatory statement “shall have
the same effect with respect to the allocation of funds and implementation of this Act
as if it were a joint explanatory statement of a committee of conference.”
H.R. 2638 provides $30.3 million for polar icebreaker sustainment. The funding
is provided in a new line item in the surface ships section of the Deepwater portion
of the Coast Guard’s Acquisition, Construction, and Improvements (AC&I)
appropriation account. The explanatory statement states:
One of the Coast Guard’s missions is to provide the United States with the
capability to support national interests in the polar regions. In a report recently
submitted, the Coast Guard stated that the United States will need a maritime
surface and air presence in the Arctic sufficient to support prevention and
response regimes as well as diplomatic objectives. However, no funding has been
requested for the Coast Guard’s aging icebreakers despite its inability to meet
current and projected polar operations mission responsibilities. The Coast Guard
is directed to follow House report direction regarding the polar icebreaking
operating budget. The Coast Guard should work with the National Science
Foundation in the coming year to renegotiate the existing polar icebreaking
agreement in order to return the budget for operating and maintaining its polar
icebreakers to the Coast Guard in fiscal year 2010. The AC&I appropriation
includes $30,300,000 to reactivate the USCGC POLAR STAR for an additional
Coast Guard Authorization Act For FY2008
(H.R. 2830/S. 1892)
House. Section 422 of H.R. 2830 as passed by the House states:
SEC. 422. ASSESSMENT OF NEEDS FOR ADDITIONAL COAST GUARD
PRESENCE IN HIGH LATITUDE REGIONS.
Within 270 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the
department in which the Coast Guard is operating shall submit a report to the
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives
assessing the need for additional Coast Guard prevention and response capability
in the high latitude regions. The assessment shall address needs for all Coast
Guard mission areas, including search and rescue, marine pollution response and
prevention, fisheries enforcement, and maritime commerce. The Secretary shall
include in the report —
(1) an assessment of the high latitude operating capabilities of all current Coast
Guard assets, including assets acquired under the Deepwater program;
(2) an assessment of projected needs for Coast Guard forward operating bases
in the high latitude regions;
(3) an assessment of shore infrastructure, personnel, logistics, communications,
and resources requirements to support Coast Guard forward operating bases in
the high latitude regions;
(4) an assessment of the need for high latitude icebreaking capability and the
capability of the current high latitude icebreaking assets of the Coast Guard,
(A) whether the Coast Guard’s high latitude icebreaking fleet is meeting current
mission performance goals;
(B) whether the fleet is capable of meeting projected mission performance goals;
(C) an assessment of the material condition, safety, and working conditions
aboard high latitude icebreaking assets, including the effect of those conditions
on mission performance;
(5) a detailed estimate of acquisition costs for each of the assets (including shore
infrastructure) necessary for additional prevention and response capability in
high latitude regions for all Coast Guard mission areas, and an estimate of
operations and maintenance costs for such assets for the initial 10-year period of
(6) detailed cost estimates (including operating and maintenance for a period of
10 years) for high latitude icebreaking capability to ensure current and projected
future mission performance goals are met, including estimates of the costs to —
(A) renovate and modernize the Coast Guard’s existing high latitude icebreaking
(B) replace the Coast Guard’s existing high latitude icebreaking fleet.
Senate. Section 917 of S. 1892 as reported in the Senate states:
SEC. 917. ICEBREAKERS.
(a) IN GENERAL- The Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is
operating shall acquire or construct 2 polar icebreakers for operation by the
Coast Guard in addition to its existing fleet of polar icebreakers.
(b) NECESSARY MEASURES- The Secretary shall take all necessary measures,
including the provision of necessary operation and maintenance funding, to
ensure that —
(1) the Coast Guard maintains, at a minimum, its current vessel capacity for
carrying out ice breaking in the Arctic and Antarctic, Great Lakes, and New
England regions; and
(2) any such vessels that are not fully operational are brought up to, and
maintained at full operational capability.
(c) REIMBURSEMENT- Nothing in this section shall preclude the Secretary
from seeking reimbursement for operation and maintenance costs of such polar
icebreakers from other Federal agencies and entities, including foreign countries,
that benefit from the use of the icebreakers.
(d) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS- There are authorized to be
appropriated for fiscal year 2008 to the Secretary of the department in which the
Coast Guard is operating such sums as may be necessary to acquire the
icebreakers authorized by subsection (a), as well as maintaining and operating
the icebreaker fleet as authorized in subsection (b).
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, in its report
(S.Rept. 110-261 of February 5, 2008) on S. 1892, states:
Section 917 would require the Secretary to acquire or construct two new
polar icebreakers for operation by the Coast Guard. It also would instruct the
Coast Guard to maintain their existing polar icebreakers and return them to
operational status, if not operational already. This section would authorize such
sums as are necessary to carry out this section. Currently, the Coast Guard’s
icebreaker fleet is funded by the National Science Foundation. However, the
funding for these vessels has been inconsistent, allowing the Polar Star to fall
behind on the maintenance necessary to keep the vessel in operating condition.
With some climate models predicting an ice-free Arctic summer in the future,
more international expeditions will be headed to the region to examine newly
revealed oil and gas reserves and other natural resources. Canada, Russia, and
other countries will begin to compete with the United States over jurisdiction
and, without a strong polar icebreaker fleet, our Nation will suffer a severe
disadvantage. A recent 2007 report by the National Academy of Sciences found
that the United States needs to maintain polar icebreaking capacity and construct
at least two new polar icebreakers. This provision follows those
recommendations. (Page 29)
In presenting the CBO’s estimate of the cost of Section 917 of S. 1892 as
reported, the report states:
Assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, CBO estimates that the
USCG would spend about $1.4 billion over the next five years to purchase two
icebreakers. (Costs to operate and maintain the two new vessels would total
about $50 million a year beginning in 2013.) We estimate that an additional $50
million would be spent over the 2008-2010 period to recondition an existing
USCG icebreaker, which is currently out of operation. Operating and maintaining
that vessel would cost about $10 million in 2010 and about $25 million annually
thereafter. This estimate is based on information provided by the Coast Guard
regarding the cost of constructing, operating, and maintaining such vessels to
agency specifications. (Page 8; see also pages 6 and 7)
FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act
(H.R. 2764/P.L. 110-161)
FY2008 funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which
includes the Coast Guard, was provided in the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations
Act (H.R. 2764/P.L. 110-161 of December 26, 2007). The explanatory statement for
H.R. 2764/P.L. 100, which is intended to be the equivalent of a conference report for
the bill, states the following in its discussion of Division E (the FY2008 DHS
National Interests in the Polar Regions
The Committees on Appropriations are concerned about Coast Guard’s
ability to meet its polar operations mission requirements and provide the United
States with the capability to support national interests in the polar regions. These
mission requirements include, but are not limited to: global reach to the North
and South poles; monitoring of U.S.-bound vessel traffic transiting international
waterways in the far north; support of the International Ice Patrol; and support
of other governmental and scientific organizations in pursuit of marine and
atmospheric science activities in the polar regions. The Committees on
Appropriations are specifically concerned whether Coast Guard’s aging polar
icebreaking fleet can meet current mission performance goals and whether this
fleet and the service’s small cadre of specialized polar operations personnel are
capable of meeting projected mission performance goals in light of changing
environmental conditions and increased activity in the polar regions. The
National Academy of Sciences made several recommendations in this regard in
September 2006, but the Administration has taken no action to implement those
Therefore, the Commandant is directed to submit a comprehensive polar
operations report that fully assesses the Coast Guard’s ability to meet current and
projected polar mission requirements and includes an evaluation of how Coast
Guard’s current capabilities and resources must be adapted or enhanced to
account for changing environmental conditions and increased activity in the polar
regions. This report is to include an analysis of the need for any permanent,
forward operating presence in the polar regions in order to meet mission
requirements and an assessment of the Coast Guard’s ability to meet the
requirements of partner agencies operating in the polar regions, such as the
National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Departments of Commerce and
Defense, under current and projected environmental conditions. Finally, this
report should include an appraisal of the sustainability of the current operations
and maintenance cost sharing arrangement between the Coast Guard and NSF to
support both current and projected polar icebreaker operations.
Appendix A. Funding Arrangement with NSF
This appendix presents additional discussion of the current arrangement under
which the NSF funds the operation and maintenance of Coast Guard polar
Excerpts from 2007 NRC Report43
The 2007 NRC report discusses the origins and features of the funding
arrangement as follows:
Budget base transfers in the 1970s and 1980s placed annual funding
resources in the budgets of agencies with programs benefiting from icebreaker
support in that era, including the Department of Defense, National Science
Foundation, and Maritime Administration. Memoranda of Agreement (MOAs)
implemented these budget transfers to the U.S. Coast Guard by providing for
incremental reimbursement of deployment-related expenses (primarily fuel and
other consumables) back to the U.S. Coast Guard. Although the U.S. Coast
Guard retained a budget base for icebreaker crews, maintenance, training, and
other support to ensure that ships were ready for operations, it did not have
budget authority to specifically deploy icebreakers in support of U.S. Coast
Guard mission responsibilities. Changes in programs and levels of user agency
funding resulted in the decommissioning of older icebreakers in the late 1980s,
and some changes were made in the reimbursement formula, but the general
concept of agencies “buying” operational icebreaker days continued until 2005.
In preparing the President’s budget for fiscal year 2006, the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) transferred budget authority for the polar
icebreakers from the U.S. Coast Guard to the National Science Foundation
(NSF), while the U.S. Coast Guard was to retain custody of the polar icebreakers
and continue to operate and maintain this fleet. Congress enacted this one-time
transfer of $48 million from the U.S. Coast Guard to NSF, which was intended
to offset all direct costs associated with the polar icebreaking program, including
personnel, training, operation, and maintenance. These funds constitute the U.S.
Coast Guard’s entire noncapital budget for polar icebreakers. This amount,
however, was essentially less than two-thirds of the $65 million to $75 million...
that the U.S. Coast Guard estimated it would cost to maintain the ships. Congress
finalized the transfer of funds in Conference Report H.R. 109-272 between the
House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees that are responsible for NSF.
According to briefings received from OMB budget examiners (October 7,
2005), this action was based on the fact that the vast majority of icebreaker ship
time has been employed for scientific research. The availability and readiness of
the polar icebreakers to address other national needs such as law enforcement,
marine pollution response, search and rescue, providing a U.S. presence, and
defense operations was not cited as a factor in the decision to transfer the ships
43 National Research Council, Polar Icebreakers in a Changing World, An Assessment of
U.S. Needs, Washington, 2007. 122 pp.
With this transfer, NSF assumed control of the polar icebreaker program,
and an MOA between the U.S. Coast Guard and NSF regarding polar icebreaker
support and reimbursement was established in August 2005. The purpose of this
MOA is to “implement the [then proposed] budget base transfer for use of the
U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers for scientific and operational support for all
planned U.S. Coast Guard operations for FY 2006 and beyond.”
Under the 2005 MOA, NSF agrees to consider all national priorities and
maintenance requirements when allocating the limited budget. In addition, NSF
will identify icebreaker mission needs for the succeeding fiscal year to the U.S.
Coast Guard. The responsibilities of the U.S. Coast Guard under this agreement
are scheduled on an annual basis by NSF. The U.S. Coast Guard has agreed to
provide support staff and services necessary to operate and maintain the polar
icebreaker fleet and to inform NSF of secondary polar icebreaker missions as
they occur. These missions include the traditional U.S. Coast Guard missions of
the polar icebreakers (search and rescue, enforcement of laws and treaties) that
were conducted as needed and funded from the base funding. Under this
agreement, the U.S. Coast Guard will continue to perform these missions (as
needed), and NSF will continue to fund these missions from the program base
that was transferred to NSF in FY 2006. In addition, if a situation arises that
requires long-term polar icebreaker involvement (major marine pollution or
humanitarian relief efforts), then funding and scheduling impacts will be44
coordinated between the U.S. Coast Guard and NSF.
In commenting on this funding arrangement and making recommendations for
the future, the report states:
The recent transfer of budget authority for the polar icebreaking program by the
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) from the U.S. Coast Guard to NSF did
not address the basic problem of underfunding routine maintenance or providing
funds for U.S. Coast Guard non-science icebreaker missions. The transfer has
increased management difficulties by spreading management decisions related
to the polar icebreakers across two agencies.
The NSF now has fiscal control over all direct costs associated with the
polar icebreaking program, including personnel, training, operation, and
maintenance costs. Under a Memorandum of Agreement negotiated between the
U.S. Coast Guard and NSF, the U.S. Coast Guard must submit a yearly plan for
approval by the NSF. The NSF is now fiscally responsible, and making
decisions, for missions outside its core mission and expertise. Without budget
authority, the U.S. Coast Guard has been put in a situation in which it has the
role of operating a ship for which it does not have full budget and management
The committee believes that the total set of U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking
missions transcends the mission of support to science, despite the fact that the
majority of icebreaker usage at the current time is to support research. The U.S.
Coast Guard should have the funds and authority to perform the full range of
mission responsibilities in ice-covered waters of the Arctic. There is strong
evidence that national need for polar icebreaking in the Arctic will increase over
the next several decades. Orders for commercial ice-strengthened tankers will
44 Ibid, pp. 14-15. Bracketed material as in original.
double the worldwide fleet of these vessels. Most are slated to operate in the
western Arctic along the Northern Sea Route, but expansion of hydrocarbon
development activities to the Alaskan North Slope and Canadian Beaufort Sea
is proceeding. With this added human presence, a robust U.S. Coast Guard polar
icebreaker fleet will be needed for regular patrols of our coastal waters to
increase U.S. presence in international Arctic waters. This will require
resumption of regular patrols of coastal waters and an increased U.S. presence
in international Arctic waters by the nation’s multimission icebreaker fleet. It is
not sufficient to provide funds to only maintain the fleet; it is necessary to
provide funds to operate it effectively. The committee strongly believes that
management responsibility should be aligned with management accountability.
When NSF, NOAA, or another “user” agency employs a U.S. Coast Guard
icebreaker to support some directed activity, the user agency should pay only
incremental costs associated with direct mission tasking. This arrangement has
worked well for decades, although it would be useful for the financial
arrangement to be clarified and reasserted by the administration. If the U.S. Coast
Guard is funded to operate a vessel, then direct tasking reimbursement would
typically include the cost of fuel for extended transit beyond patrol, and on-ship
engineering and habitation costs that derive from research activities. The
committee distinguishes between direct mission tasking of a science voyage and
science of opportunity where scientists or educators are aboard at the invitation
of the U.S. Coast Guard on voyages planned for Coast Guard patrol missions.
The committee encourages the U.S. Coast Guard to invite researchers and
educators on planned patrols to conduct science of opportunity. Only direct
tasking should result in reimbursement to the U.S. Coast Guard above its
congressionally appropriated operational funds.
Recommendation 6: The U.S. Coast Guard should be provided sufficient
operations and maintenance budget to support an increased, regular, and
influential presence in the Arctic. Other agencies should reimburse incremental45
costs associated with directed mission tasking.
Excerpts from July 16, 2008, Hearing
Coast Guard Testimony. The prepared statement of Admiral Thad Allen,
Commandant of the Coast Guard, for the July 16, 2008, hearing on Coast Guard
icebreaker needs stated in part:
Funding Arrangement with the National Science Foundation (NSF)
In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security’s Appropriations Act
transferred the Coast Guard’s $47.5 million in budget authority for Polar
icebreaking to NSF. Through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), NSF later
funded a total of $55.2 million in FY 2006 and $52.1 million in FY 2007 for the
vessels. The FY 2008 appropriation to NSF is $57.0 million.
While Polar-class icebreakers primarily provide support to NSF and other
agency’s research missions, the current Coast Guard-NSF MOA gives the Coast
Guard a reasonable ability to divert these vessels to search and rescue, oil spill
45 Ibid, pp. 101-102. Similar passages appear on pages 10 and 111.
and other missions to respond to emergencies and threats to maritime safety and
security. We are working closely with NSF and the Administration to ensure
preservation and efficacy of our Nation’s critical icebreaking capabilities and
competencies. To prepare for the impacts of changing Arctic conditions on
multiple agencies and their missions, the Administration has undertaken an46
Arctic policy review in which the Coast Guard is an active participant.
During the question-and-answer portion of Admiral Allen’s testimony, the
following exchange occurred:
Representative LaTourette: Relative to the Polar icebreakers and this
issue of the National Science Foundation — and, again, in my opening remarks,
I mentioned the contract that they’ve entered into with the Swedes — did you
have an observation or an opinion as to what the impact of having the National
Science Foundation basically have the budget authority for the icebreakers does
to the service relative to dollar impact, administration, running of the ships?
Admiral Allen: Well, I’ve said on several occasions and in prior hearings,
and I will restate it here, the current situation, while well-intended when it was
created, is somewhat dysfunctional in regards to how we have to manage this,
because it puts a huge, enormous management burden on the National Science
Foundation, that puts almost an evidentiary responsibility on the Coast Guard to
demonstrate what we intend to do with the vessels, so they can certify what the
funds are being used for and they’re adequately being spent.
And I don’t begrudge them a bit for doing that, but it is very, very
Representative LaTourette: If they, in fact, had not entered into the
agreement with the Swedes [for the use of an icebreaker], would those have been
funds available to the Coast Guard for the use of your assets?
Admiral Allen: At the start of every year, we come up with an operating
plan. And there’s a certain base amount of money that is provided in the National
Science Foundation budget, and I’ll let Dr. Bement speak to that. We provide
them a plan. They approve the plan. And that is the source of the funds that are
transferred from the National Science Foundation to the Coast Guard.
And it varies from year to year based on the amount of operations we’re
conducting and the maintenance required on the ships.
Representative LaTourette: And do those funds in that budget that you
lay out at the beginning of the year, are those funds always sufficient to the cost
incurred by the Coast Guard for those missions?
46 Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard, Statement of Admiral Thad W.
Allen, Commandant, on Coast Guard Icebreaking, Before the Subcommittee on Coast Guard
and Maritime Transportation, Committee on transportation and Infrastructure, U.S. House
of Representatives, July 16, 2008, p. 6.
Admiral Allen: Well, there’s been an ongoing issue about whether or not,
as ships get older — and this is not just to do with icebreakers, it could be any
ship you’re talking about — they become more expensive as they get older.
There probably is an added issue of an inflation factor and the ability to47
keep up with the demands for maintenance on the ships.
Later in the question-and-answer portion of Admiral Allen’s testimony, the
following exchange occurred:
Representative Larsen: I understand that Polar Sea completed a
deployment to the waters in April and May, primarily for the purpose of
renewing the crew’s qualifications. Can you tell us what sort of missions the
Polar Sea performed, what it accomplished and whether or not the crew was able
to fully renew their qualifications?
Admiral Allen: Sir, we moved out into the — through the Gulf of Alaska
through the Aleutian Chain up into the Bering Sea. We did fisheries patrols, did
what we would call Arctic Domain Awareness — just up there sensing what’s
going on, an idea for the amount of vessel traffic.
We did science of opportunity. We did some — got into the very, very light
ice areas there.
It was good. We needed to do it. I’m glad we did it. I appreciate the
National Science Foundation support on doing that.
I wish we could have done more. I wish we could have got deeper into the
ice and spent a longer time there, because these competencies atrophy over time,
and I am concerned that at a certain point, there won’t be a baseline level of
competency to operate these ships, which we’re going to need to do in the future.
But there are constraints put on the operation of Polar Sea by the
agreements with the National Science Foundation. We did what we could.
Representative Larsen: What constraints are on it?
Admiral Allen: Well, we pre-negotiate how much we’re going to use the
ship. There’s a matter of risk, if you get into the ice and you have some wear and
tear, or you have issue with the propeller, or things that need to be done, number
one, that increases cost or the risk that the vessel might not be available next year
when it’s going to be in standby for the contracted icebreaker for the McMurdo
Representative Larsen: So then, when the crew’s not able to fully renew
their qualifications, in your view?
Admiral Allen: Well, they atrophy at a time — we’re OK right now, but
that’s the reason I’m trying to press forward with a sense of urgency. We kind of
have to get this resolved. Otherwise, we’re going to lose our seed corn.
47 Source: Transcript of hearing.
Representative Larsen: And so, it sounds to me like they weren’t able to
fully renew their qualifications.
Admiral Allen: We would have liked to have done more. Yes, sir.
Representative Larsen: So, what does it take to do more?
Admiral Allen: Well, I think we need to continue to work on the
management issues associated with it, and arrive on a consensus on how we can
sustain the current fleet and the competencies in the Coast Guard and still meet
the requirements of the National Science Foundation. It’s going to have to be a
collaborative effort, sir.
Representative Allen: It sounds like you need a collaborative effort, but
it also sounds like those limitations are preventing you from achieving your
Admiral Allen: I’m concerned about our readiness eroding. Yes, sir.48
Still later in the question-and-answer portion of Admiral Allen’s testimony, the
following exchange occurred:
Representative Coble: As I understand it, Mr. Chairman, in 2006,
Congress transferred budget authority for polar icebreaking to the National
Science Foundation. And they, in turn, reimburse the Coast Guard for operations.
It is furthermore my understanding that the NSF has begun to contract with
foreign icebreaking companies to fulfill their needs in the Arctic. And I want to
ask you a couple of questions in a just a minute, Admiral.
But to conclude, Mr. Chairman and my colleagues, I have a keen interest
in icebreaking. And I’m subjectively involved, because I used to be stationed
aboard a Coast Guard cutter. I’m sure, Admiral, she’s long been
decommissioned. I don’t know where she is now.
But I would like to encourage our committee, Mr. Chairman, to continue
to review the shared responsibilities between the National Science Foundation
and the Coast Guard with regard to polar icebreaking. While I support the
mission of both agencies, I question whether the current funding mechanisms
best fit the respective needs of the two organizations.
And Admiral Allen, what I want to do, I want to put a three-part question
to you. And I’m going to probably have to abruptly leave to go back to Judiciary.
But my questions to you, Admiral, are:
Has this procedure that I just described affected your operations and
readiness of the polar icebreaking fleet, A?
B, does the current funding arrangement with the National Science
Foundation allow for adequate maintenance of the polar icebreaker fleet, B?
48 Source: Transcript of hearing.
And C, what are the long-term implications of continuing this funding
Admiral Allen: There is an issue with current readiness, and it’s not a —
let me say it up front here. I have all the respect in the world for Dr. Bement [of
the NSF], and we’re good friends and we’re colleagues. I think we’re both in a
really tough situation here.
Any time you have one of the three icebreakers that this country operates
through the Coast Guard that have been validated by an external study by the
National Research Council in a commission special status, you have a readiness
So, is there a readiness problem? Yes, there is, sir.
That vessel [Polar Star] is tied up. It’s got a caretaker crew on it. We’re
making sure the machinery could be brought back in a year or so, if it was
But we’ve had divers down looking at the hull. We have problems with the
zinc anodes that are on there that protect against corrosion. There’s marine
growth on it.
So, even the readiness of the vessel that’s laid up continues to be an issue
Is this adequate in the long term? Obviously, it’s not. We need three polar
icebreakers to operate in this country, and one is laid up.
And in the long term, my goal is to stabilize what’s going on right now and
make sure we keep the Polar Star where it’s at pending the policy resolutions that
will lead us to a long-term solution.
But our readiness now is not what it should be. I don’t believe it’s adequate,49
and we have to have a long-term fix, sir.
Still later in the question-and-answer portion of Admiral Allen’s testimony, the
following exchange occurred:
Representative Cummings: And so, when you say long range — you said
maybe we ought to have a long-range plan — I guess what I’m trying to get to
is that, in the short range, right now, we do have a problem then.
Representative Allen: Yes, sir. And it’s because the effort and the money
that’s being transferred is sized to support the science mission, not all the
missions we need to do, sir.
Representative Cummings: I see. And...
49 Source: Transcript of hearing.
Admiral Allen: I think Dr. Bement would tell you we’re just fine where
we’re at, and I understand where he sits on that. But I’ve got other things I have
to do out there.
Representative Cummings: You’d rather not be sharing any efforts with
the National Science Foundation.
Admiral Allen: No, I’d rather be supporting them completely without any
Representative Cummings: Right.
Admiral Allen: ... and giving him what he needs, and then, with the
capacity that I have, in addition to the science, be creating presence where we50
need to, based on the evolving mission, sir.
Still later in the question-and-answer portion of Admiral Allen’s testimony,
Representative Richardson asked Admiral Allen if he agreed with certain findings of
the 2007 NRC report. When Representative Richardson asked whether he agreed
with a finding that “the U.S. Coast Guard should be provided sufficient operations
and maintenance budget to support an increase in regular and influential presence in
the Arctic,” Admiral Allen replied:
Well, that’s a two-part question, because currently, the maintenance money
resides with the National Science Foundation. Without prejudice, I believe the
money should be in the Coast Guard base [budget], and we should operate it. But51
that’s a policy decision to be made.
NSF and U.S. Arctic Commission Testimony. The July 16, 2008,
hearing on Coast Guard icebreaker needs also included testimony from Dr. Arden
Bement, Jr., Director of the NSF, Mead Treadwell, Chair of the U.S. Arctic
Commission, and James Weakley, President of the Lake Carriers’ Association and
Vice President of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force. During the question-and-
answer portion of their testimony, which followed Admiral Allen’s testimony, the
following exchange occurred:
Representative Cummings: I want to first of all go to you, Mr. Bement,
and to you, Mr. Treadwell, regarding the Polar Sea’s most recent mission to the
Arctic. Can either of you comment on why the vessel did not go further north
than it did?
Dr. Bement: Yes. Our procedure in working with the Coast Guard to
allocate the — or not to exceed budget that we get from the Congress, which this
past year was of the order of $54 million — is that we provide to the Coast
Guard a set of requirements, operating requirements.
They, in turn, take those requirements and give us an operating plan, plus
costs, for O&M [operation and maintenance] costs as well as normal operating
50 Source: Transcript of hearing.
51 Source: Transcript of hearing.
costs. We negotiate that plan and finally come up with a settlement, which then
gets transferred to the Coast Guard for operations.
In the case of the Polar Sea and operating in the Arctic, most of those
operations were to requalify crewmen for certification for operations.
We felt at the time of our negotiations with the Coast Guard — and we
came to agreement — that taking the Polar Sea into deep ice was risky, because
of the possibility of serious damage, so that it seemed to be more prudent to
transfer crewmen who needed to be certified for ice operations to the Healy,
since the Healy was operating in deep ice.
Those crewmen did achieve their service on the Healy. They did get
certified. So, as an alternative set of conditions, that seemed to be the best
decision we could arrive at, at that time.
Representative Cummings: So the — basically, because the Polar Sea is
old, you were concerned?
Dr. Bement: Well, we usually have the Polar Sea for backup service. And
in many cases, you need two ships, because it’s hard enough from season to
season how thick the ice is going to be. And if the ice is sufficiently thick, you
need a backup vessel. Also, if one of the ships gets damaged, you need the
backup vessel to take over the operation.
If the Polar Sea, operating on its own in the Arctic, had gone into deep ice
and had undergone serious damage that required lengthy maintenance, that would
almost knock out all capability for icebreaking in the Antarctic for another year,
or perhaps longer.
So, we’ve been trying to not only deploy our assets, but also to protect our
assets in the most prudent way, by not putting them in risk where other
alternatives would serve. So, that was the basis for our decision.
Representative Cummings: Did you have a comment, Mr. Treadwell?
Mr. Treadwell: I — we’ve talked to the Coast Guard and we’ve talked to
the National Science Foundation, and I have no contradiction with what Dr.
Bement has said.
What I will say is that, if we’re in a situation where we can’t put our Polar
Class icebreaker into the ice, because we’re afraid we’ll break it, that’s probably
prima facie evidence that we need a new icebreaker. And because we probably
should have two backing it up, I think that particular episode is a very good piece52
of evidence for Congress to take action on this issue.
52 Source: Transcript of hearing.
Appendix B. NSF Use of Coast Guard vs. Other
This appendix presents excerpts from the July 16, 2008, hearing on Coast Guard
icebreaking needs that relate to the question of the NSF’s use of Coast Guard polar
icebreakers versus other polar icebreakers to support its research activities.
Excerpts from NSF Statement for July 16, 2008, Hearing
The prepared statement of Dr. Arden Bement, Jr., Director of the NSF, for the
July 16, 2008, hearing on Coast Guard icebreaker needs stated in part:
NSF responsibilities in the Arctic and in Antarctica take somewhat different
forms, and with the Committee’s indulgence I’ll explain briefly how they differ
with respect to icebreaker requirements. But in both cases the question of how
best to meet those responsibilities boils down to consideration of three factors:
cost, performance, and policy.
NSF REQUIREMENTS IN THE ARCTIC
NSF supports research on the Arctic Ocean, atmosphere, and land areas,
including marine and terrestrial ecosystems and their relationships to the
well-being of local populations. In addition to research in individual disciplines,
support is provided for interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the Arctic
region, including its role in global climate. Over the last decade, changes have
been measured in the distribution of polar ice cover, in atmospheric composition,
Arctic Ocean conditions, some terrestrial parameters, as well as in northern
ecosystems. Residents of the North are seeing these environmental changes affect
their lives. It is important to determine whether these changes correlate to a
short-term shift in regional atmospheric or ocean processes or whether they are
the result of longer-term global change.
In the Arctic, science on land and in coastal areas tends to be based at a few
sparsely distributed, remote outposts, and in many cases access by ship is the
most advantageous means, even for projects that are not inherently
oceanographic. In its few years of service, the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy has
supported research in a variety of areas including biology, sea ice, marine
geology and geophysics, cartography, physical and chemical oceanography and
As research has advanced and become more technologically sophisticated,
NSF has increasingly relied on coordinated international multi-ship expeditions
to access the Arctic region and laboratory facilities. For example, while the
USCGC Healy does have the capability to work alone in the deep Arctic during
summer, any vessel by itself is more risky, making multi-ship arrangements
necessary in lieu of an icebreaker research platform with more robust
capabilities. The USCG Polar Sea and Polar Star have sufficient icebreaking
capability to operate in the deep Arctic, but they have limited research
capabilities , by design, and have been needed in the Antarctic. International
collaborations also have become necessary, as the demands for research aboard
the Healy have intensified. Recent international partnerships with Sweden
involving their icebreaker, the Oden; and with Germany and their icebreaker, the
Polarstern; have been highly successful, as have collaborations by NSF, National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other agencies with
various Canadian, Chinese, Russian and other ships.
Arctic Requirements: Ship Cost and Reliability
According to information provided by the Coast Guard, over the past
decade NSF has typically used approximately 90 percent of the 185-200 days
current USCG deployment standards allow Healy to spend at sea. Science
programs are limited by the ship time available on the USCGC Healy and also
by the number of berths available for science. Healy can accommodate up to 50
scientific personnel in addition to its operational Coast Guard crew of about 80.
Other nations’ research icebreakers with comparable icebreaking capability
typically operate with crews half the size of Healy’s, with comparably greater
numbers of scientist berths.
The Healy also faces limitations in its icebreaking capacity, especially
during the spring when the ice coverage north of Alaska has been thick enough
in some years (2004, 2005) to beset the ship for several days.
Under the current arrangement, NSF is responsible for funding Healy
operations and maintenance while the Coast Guard is responsible for operating
the ship and carrying out its maintenance program. Coordination between the two
agencies is arranged under an MOA in which NSF provides the Coast Guard with
a set of operational requirements annually based on an interagency call for
icebreaker needs and the Coast Guard responds with an operational plan and cost
estimate based on those requirements. Total Healy costs are approximately $24
million annually, or about $130,000 per day at sea in 2007.
I will return to the issues of cost, availability and policy shortly.
Plans have been underway for several years to construct a new
ice-strengthened ship that could support scientific studies in the waters around
Alaska. NSF has assigned high priority to building this ship, the Alaska Region
Research Vessel (ARRV), and construction funds were included in the
President’s FY08 budget request for acquisition planning. It is estimated that it
will take 2.5 years to construct and deploy the ship once a shipyard contract has
been issued. The ship will be operated by the University-National Oceanographic
Laboratory System (UNOLS) which operates a number of research vessels. The
ARRV, which will replace the Alpha Helix, will be designed to work in up to 3
feet of ice. The ARRV will thus be able to conduct research cruises year round
in the Gulf of Alaska and the southern Bering Sea; and in the summer, as far
north as the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas during minimum ice cover. During heavy
ice periods in the Bering Sea, the ARRV would probably need the assistance of
the Healy. Estimated operating costs are about $20K — $30K/day. Arctic sea ice
has diminished significantly since the ARRV design was established and thus
ARRV’s reach now extends farther into the Arctic Ocean than had been
anticipated, making the ship even more valuable to the research community.
Finally, we need better access to the deep ocean in the Arctic. Options for
supporting research in the deep Arctic should be integral to any study of future
In conclusion, the Healy is a capable and relatively new ship that can be the
mainstay of U.S. Arctic Ocean research for years to come. However, under the
current operational model the operating costs are significantly higher than
non-military research icebreakers and its capability as an all-seasons deep arctic
research platform is also limited.
NSF REQUIREMENTS IN ANTARCTICA
NSF provides approximately 85 percent of the U.S. funding for
fundamental research in the Antarctic and the southern ocean. This research
addresses a wide array of topics across many disciplines. For instance,
researchers are studying topics as wide-ranging as the evolution of the ozone
hole; the impact of extreme environments on gene expression; the effects of
ultraviolet radiation on living organisms; the relationship between changes in the
ice sheet and global sea level; global weather, climate, and ocean circulation; the
role of Antarctica in global tectonics and the evolution of life through geologic
time; and the early evolution of our universe, as well as its current composition.
This research requires access to ships serving two quite different functions:
multi-purpose icebreakers that can operate in the Southern Ocean as research
platforms that also resupply our coastal Palmer Station on the Antarctic
Peninsula; and heavy-duty icebreakers that can open a resupply channel through
fast ice to McMurdo Station. From McMurdo, supplies are transferred to the U.S.
research station at the South Pole and to temporary remote field stations at
various points on the continent. These two requirements are met in quite different
Antarctic Ship-Based Research Platforms: Ship Cost, Availability and
U.S. Antarctic Program ship-based research and Palmer Station resupply
depend primarily on two privately-owned vessels, the Laurence M. Gould (LMG)
and the Nathaniel B. Palmer (NBP).
The NBP is leased by NSF’s prime contractor, currently Raytheon Polar
Services Company (RPSC), from the Louisiana-based shipping company, Edison
Chouest Offshore (ECO). The vessel was built to specifications developed on the
basis of input from the science community. The ship is an ABS A2 icebreaker
capable of breaking 3 feet of level ice continuously at 3 knots, with 13,000 shaft
horsepower and a displacement of 6,800 long tons. It is outfitted with all of the
winches and A-frames necessary for deploying and retrieving oceanographic
instrumentation. The vessel is fully outfitted with on-board oceanographic
instrumentation and a networked computer suite, including multi-beam sonar,22
and has 5,900 ft of lab space and 4,076 ft of open deck space for oceanographic
work and staging and a helicopter pad and hanger.
The NBP averages 300 days a year underway in support of science.
As is the case for the NBP, the Laurence M. Gould is leased by Raytheon
from Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO). Also like the NBP, the vessel was
designed and built on the basis of input from the science community. The ship
is smaller than the NBP and has less ice breaking capability, as it was designed
to operate in the more benign ice regions surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula.
The ship is an ABS A1 ice-strengthened vessel with 4,600 shaft horsepower and
a displacement of 3,400 long tons and can break one foot of level ice at a
continuous 3 knots. It is fully instrumented with on-board oceanographic
instruments and a networked computer suite. The LMG has the dual purpose of
supporting oceanographic science and providing re-supply to Palmer Station,
located on the Antarctic Peninsula. It should be noted, however, that the LMG
will soon be at the end of its service contract. NSF recently issued a request for
proposals to procure a replacement for the LMG.
The LMG averages 320 days a year underway in support of scientific
research and associated logistics.
Annual costs for the NPB and LMG in 2007 were $16.3M and $7.5M,
respectively, resulting in respective day costs of $54.3K and $23.4K for these
Antarctic Station Resupply: Ship Cost, Reliability and Policy
As noted above, the resupply of the McMurdo and South Pole Stations, as
well as of temporary remote field stations in Antarctica, depends on gaining
access to the McMurdo pier through the ice in McMurdo Sound. Since 1988 the
channel was opened by one U.S. Coast Guard Polar Class vessel (either the Polar
Star or the Polar Sea), but more recently two icebreaking vessels have been
needed due to extreme ice conditions and concerns about the reliability of the
aging Polar Class vessels.
After opening the channel, the icebreaker escorts two resupply vessels, a
government-owned tanker and a chartered freighter, to and from the ice pier at
McMurdo. These resupply vessels are ice-strengthened vessels under the
operational control of U.S. Transportation Command’s (USTRANSCOM)
Component Command, Military Sealift Command. (Military Sealift Command
utilizes commercial contracts for construction, maintenance and staffing of
vessels. As a result, MSC operates a fleet of cargo ships and tankers that are
contractor-owned and operated or government-owned and contractor-operated.)
In FY05, acting on advice from the Coast Guard that a second icebreaker
should be brought in to assist the Polar Star due to extreme ice conditions in
McMurdo sound, NSF chartered the Russian icebreaker Krasin for the purpose.
The Coast Guard’s Polar Sea was undergoing repairs and no other U.S.
icebreakers were available, as the Healy was needed in the Arctic to support
research. Italso lacks both the maneuverability and performance for the
McMurdo break in. In FY06 the Polar Sea was undergoing extensive repair. NSF
again chartered the Russian icebreaker Krasin and held Polar Star in reserve
(and eventually brought it in to assist in the final stages of the break-in). The
situation was similar in FY07. Polar Sea was ready for duty but the Coast Guard
recommended that a backup vessel again be employed due to continuing extreme
ice conditions. NSF therefore arranged to use a Swedish research icebreaker (the
Oden) under the auspices of the U.S. - Sweden S&T Agreement, both to open the
channel to McMurdo Station and to host a joint U.S. - Swedish research
expedition aboard the ship in the Southern Ocean. Polar Sea assisted with the
final stages of the McMurdo break in. Based on the excellent performance of
Oden in FY07 and the success of the joint research program, NSF elected to use
the Oden again in FY08, this time as the primary icebreaker, holding the Polar
Sea in reserve where it could also respond to any needs for its services in the
Arctic. The Polar Sea deployed to the Arctic in FY08 in order to maintain crew
The USCG has performed its icebreaking mission in Antarctica with
distinction for many decades, but with increasing difficulty in recent years. Its
two Polar Class icebreakers are nearing the end of their estimated service lives
and are becoming increasingly difficult and costly to keep in service. According
to the USCG, there are several years of service life in the Polar Sea, but the
Polar Star has now been placed in caretaker status per agreement with USCG in
view of the decreasing need for her services and the high cost of putting her back
into service. The need to rely, first on the Krasin and then on the Oden has
already been mentioned as has the need to keep the Polar Sea available to meet
the needs in the Arctic and perhaps as occasional backup for the annual
McMurdo Station break-in. Given this state of affairs, NSF has given careful
consideration to how best to meet the needs of the scientific community over the
Under the current arrangement between NSF and the Coast Guard, NSF
provides all the funding for USCG icebreaker operations and maintenance in
support of scientific research, and the Coast Guard carries out those duties. NSF
provided just under $54M for operation of the USCG polar class icebreakers in
2007. In addition, NSF provided approximately $7.5 million out of its base
budget for fuel and charter of Oden. When chartering commercial vessels such
as the Krasin and the Oden, NSF pays only for the time that the ships are under
USE OF COMMERCIAL SHIPS AND MODELS/MODES OF
As noted above, NSF has met the research community’s need for research
platforms in the Southern Ocean through long-term contracts with private firms
for ice-strengthened ships and icebreakers and through partnerships that provide
access to other country’s research vessels. For resupply of McMurdo and South
Pole Stations, NSF has depended until recently entirely on U.S. Coast Guard
icebreakers secured through reimbursement arrangements, and on chartered
Military Sealift Command capabilities. More recently, NSF has had to arrange
for chartered vessels to complement USCG capabilities. In the Arctic, NSF has
relied on the Coast Guard’s Healy and on partnerships with other countries. Once
constructed and commissioned, the Arctic Regional Research Vessel (ARRV)
will significantly increase the capacity for ship-based research in the coastal
Arctic regions and where ice cover is relatively thin.
A variety of models have been and are being used by the U.S and other
countries for meeting polar icebreaker needs. The U.S. Coast Guard and the
Chilean and Argentinean Navies operate their icebreakers using military
personnel. Some countries build their ships to meet military specifications and
others do not. The German research icebreaker, the Polarstern, is owned by the
government but operated by a private contractor. The Swedish government’s
operational arrangements for the Oden are similar to the German model. Both the
Oden and the Polarstern are able to operate more than 300 days annually as a
consequence of ship design and mode of operation. The Arctic Regional
Research Vessel (ARRV) will be operated by civilian crews under contract to the
University-National Oceanographic Laboratory Systems (UNOLS).
As noted above, NSF employs a contractor to operate and maintain the
privately-owned Laurence M. Gould and Nathanial B. Palmer. The ships were
built under a long-term lease agreement between the ship-owners and the Federal
government, such that the construction costs are partially amortized over the
duration of the lease (with the ship reverting to the owner at the government’s
option at the end of the lease). These ships also operate more than 300 days
Finally, and as noted previously, the Military Sealift Command meets its
needs (and those of NSF’s for transport to McMurdo Station) either through
commercial charters for ships and crews, or through government-owned,
MEETING FUTURE NEEDS
International cooperation to provide icebreaker research platforms is
expected to increase, both in arranging multi-ship expeditions and in sharing
platforms. Certainly as Germany and the European community move forward in
constructing the planned Aurora Borealis, NSF will work to establish mutually
NSF’s commitment to polar research and its responsibility for management
of the U.S. Antarctic Program remains constant and therefore perpetuates the
need for an icebreaker to open the shipping channel through the Ross Sea to
enable resupply of the McMurdo and South Pole stations. Because opening the
channel to McMurdo requires only a fraction of the time a modern icebreaker can
operate annually, there may be interest among shipbuilders in providing
icebreaker services to NSF under a contract in which the builder can lease the
ship to others (other countries or private firms) during the remainder of the year.
An interagency working group co-led by the Department of State and the
National Security Council is currently reviewing U.S. Arctic policy, and
icebreaking needs will likely figure into the new policy. Clearly, the economics
and efficiencies of the various acquisition and operating models merit further
study and will depend on the suite of validated requirements put forth in the
policy review. For research in the Arctic, the Healy should be a mainstay for
many years to come, though its utility is restricted by its 200-day operational
limitation. The Healy’s inability to access the deep Arctic during periods of
heavy ice cover is another limitation. These limitations, combined with a military
deployment mode, make the Healy as currently operated, a very expensive way
to meet the needs of the research community.
And as noted above, once in service the ARRV will be a valuable additional
resource for Arctic research.
For Antarctic research the issues are different. The two existing Coast
Guard Polar Class ships are at or close to the end of their service life. The Polar
Star is in caretaker status, and the Polar Sea is expensive to maintain relative to
the costs for the use of foreign, non-military ice breakers over the past several
years such as the Russian Krasin and Swedish Oden. The overriding question is
how to open the channel through the ice to McMurdo Station so that year-round
operation of the nation’s McMurdo and South Pole stations can continue. This
year-round occupation is central to demonstrating the “active and influential
presence” which is the cornerstone of U.S. policy in Antarctica as articulated in
Presidential Memorandum No. 6646 on U.S. Antarctic Policy and Programs
(February 5, 1982). Other factors contributing to this presence are the 600 days
annually that NSF’s research vessels, the LM Gould and the NB Palmer, operate
in Antarctic waters; the approximately twenty C-17 Air Force flights annually
that fly passengers and cargo between New Zealand and McMurdo; and the more
than 400 Air National Guard LC-130 flights annually that provide transportation
for people and equipment throughout the continent. Furthermore, NOAA charters
the Russian R/V Yuzhmorgeologiya approximately 100 sea days per year in
support of its Antarctic program. This program focuses on living marine
resources at the Antarctic Peninsula in support of U.S. interests at the
Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
(CCAMLR) to which the United States is signatory.
In considering how best to insure the continued annual resupply of
McMurdo Station and to meet our responsibility for the entire U.S. Antarctic
Program, NSF operates in accordance with U.S. Policy and the instructions
contained in Presidential Memorandum No. 6646, that “Every effort shall be
made to manage the program in a manner that maximizes cost effectiveness and
return on investment.”
The Arctic policy review will certainly help inform future icebreaker
discussions, but even if a decision were made today to build or refurbish an
icebreaker, it would be years before the ship got underway. Accordingly, to meet
its ongoing requirements in a cost-effective means, NSF has made arrangements
to lease an icebreaker from Sweden (NSF signed a 5-year agreement with
Sweden for a joint research program in the Southern Ocean with Sweden
additionally providing break in services for the USAP.). NSF sees a need to keep
the USCGC Polar Sea available to meet needs in the Arctic and perhaps as
occasional backup for the break-in to McMurdo Sound. This, however, is clearly
only a short-term solution. With an eye looking to the long-term, and after
consultations with officials in OSTP and OMB, I wrote on May 31, 2006, to the
chair of the NAS/NRC icebreaker study, Dr. Anita Jones, as follows: “Given the
rapidly escalating costs of government providers for icebreaking services and the
uncertain availability of USCG icebreakers beyond the next two years, it is
NSF’s intention to … [seek] competitive bids for icebreaking services that
support the broad goals of the USAP. This competition will be open to
commercial, government, and international service providers.” The request for
proposals will not be for ships but rather for services and we would expect the
service providers to use their ships for other purposes when not in service to meet53
NSF needs. Thus the cost to the Foundation could be substantially reduced.
NSF Spoken Testimony at July 16, 2008, Hearing
During the question-and-answer portion of Dr. Bement’s testimony, the
following exchange occurred:
Representative Cummings: Mr. Bement, are the vessels currently
available to the National Science Foundation, from the contract community and
53 Testimony of Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr., Director, National Science Foundation, Before
the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard
and Maritime Transportation, July 16, 2008, pp. 2-8. Italics as in original. This excerpt
constitutes the majority of Dr. Arden’s 8-page prepared statement.
from foreign sources, capable of handling current ice — Europe agencies —
current icebreaking needs to support research in the polar regions?
Dr. Bement: We believe so, but we haven’t fully tested that.
Two years ago, we put out a Request for Information [RFI]. And as a matter
of fact, it was through these RFIs that brought us the Krasin from Russia and the
Oden from Sweden. And I should point out parenthetically, these are not
agreements between the National Science Foundation and a private contractor.
It’s a government-to-government agreement.
And in the case of the Swedish Oden, it also carries with it a science
agreement. It’s a science exchange, because the Oden is capable of doing
science, and there’s a very active, collaborative activity between U.S. scientists
and Swedish scientists in working the Southern Ocean. And so, the Oden, while
it’s deployed in the Southern Ocean, is also there for science, as well as a
I think that if we were to put out an RFI and ask those questions, based on
the responses we got in the past, we would probably find expressions of interest,
even private interest, that would build-to-lease icebreaker services over a period
Representative Cummings: So, is it fair to say that NSF doesn’t care
where it gets its icebreaking services?
Dr. Bement: Our only — our only mandate, by presidential directive, is to
operate in the Antarctic and in the logistics support of the Antarctica Program in
the most cost-effective way possible. And, of course, the most cost-effective way
carries with it a lot of conditions and a lot of options. So, we explore all those
options in determining how we can operate under least cost.
Representative Cummings: But you mentioned Sweden and Russia, did
Dr. Bement: Yes.
Representative Cummings: Were they — were they cheaper?
Dr. Bement: Four years ago, we did have the problem where the Polar Sea
was out of operation. As a matter of fact, since that time, we have invested $29
million in extraordinary maintenance in order to get the Polar Sea back into
operation. And that’s why we call it a fragile resource.
Now, at that time, it was agreed by the Coast Guard that we needed a
backup vessel. And it was then that we put out an RFI and discovered that the
Krasin was available. And so, we contracted with Russia. The Krasin is a GOCO
vessel. It’s government-owned, contractor-operated, as is the Oden. The Oden is
also GOCO. It’s government-owned, contractor-operated.
So, for two seasons, we backed up the Coast Guard with the Krasin. And
then, two years ago we shifted to the Oden, because there was an expression of
interest on the part of Sweden to enter into a U.S.-Swedish science exchange in
return for also using the icebreaker for break-in services. And that was a very
generous offer that we took advantage of.
So, that gave us the adequate primary break-in capability, and it allowed us
to use the Coast Guard as the backup. And so, that’s the way we’ve operated for
the last two seasons.
Representative Cummings: Before we go to Mr. Oberstar, let me just ask
you this. Is the — you said you spent $29 million? And over how much — over
what course of time?
Dr. Bement: It’s over four years.
Representative Cummings: How long?
Dr. Bement: Four years.
Representative Cummings: Four years.
Dr. Bement: About four or five years. But I can give you more detailed
information for the record, to give you all the details.
But if you go back about 4.5 years ago, the Polar Star was operational. The
Polar Sea was not fully operational. It required extensive maintenance. So, we
invested in getting the Polar Sea back into operational capability.
And at that time, the Polar Star then underwent some damage. And so, it
was then that we put Polar Star in caretaker status. And it was the expectation,
based on the repairs that we had made in the Polar Sea, that it was good for
another seven or eight years, as long as we used the resource prudently.
Representative Cummings: And would you deem it prudent to contribute
capital costs for the building of a new icebreaker?
Dr. Bement: I think at this point, based on my understanding of the mission
space, that the Coast Guard has, especially with the opening up of the Arctic over
time, that it would be a prudent course of action.
But my estimate or judgment would be that, even if the funds were
approved tomorrow, it’d take about eight years to complete the construction of
the vessel and make it operational. And we still have to — we still have to plan
our course of action for the next eight years, and that’s where we need54
Later in the question-and-answer portion of Dr. Bement’s testimony, the
following exchange occurred:
Representative Oberstar: The Finns built the first nuclear-powered
icebreaker. They had to give it to the Soviet Union as war reparations after
World War II. And then they continued to build the class of vessels. And they
54 Source: Transcript of hearing.
also build a standard, that is non-nuclear vessel, the most powerful of which is
the Urho, built at the Wartsila shipyards in Helsinki.
And that had — that has — it’s still in operation — 65,000 shaft
horsepower capability. And they also developed the air skin around the vessel to
slip more readily through the ice and the ability to ship 400, 500 tons of water
from one side to another, to roll through and crush, as well as break ice.
Did you give any consideration to working with the Finns on...
Dr. Bement: Well, let me...
Representative Oberstar: ... icebreaking needs?
Dr. Bement: Thank you for bringing up that information. It turns out that
the Oden was built by the Finns. So, it could be a sister ship to the one you’re
Representative Oberstar: Oh. Oh, well, very good. They’re the master
ship — icebreaker...
Dr. Bement: That’s right.
Representative Oberstar: ... icebreaking ship builders.
Dr. Bement: The difference — a major difference between the Oden and
the Polar Sea — and the Polar Star, for that matter — is that the Oden can use
fresh water for ballast.
The Polar Sea uses fuel for ballast. That fuel has to come out of our
McMurdo stock whenever the Sea or the Star operates in McMurdo, so there’s
a million gallons. And with the price of fuel, even at the pump, that’s $4 million.
And you can use your imagination what fuel costs after you get it all the way
down to McMurdo.
And that’s an incremental cost that we pay to the Coast Guard that’s over
and above the appropriated funds that we provide them for readiness to serve and
for operation and maintenance.
So, that’s where the difference really comes in, in using the Oden versus the
Polar Sea or the Polar Star.
The other big difference is that, because the Coast Guard icebreakers are
military ships and have multiple missions, they have a much larger crew strength.
Their manning is about 134 crew, officers and crew, compared with 18 on the
And it’s important to keep in mind that, as a contractor-operated vessel,
these people are career icebreakers. They’ve served for years, so they are highly
professional. And that’s in comparison with the crew on the Polar Sea, where the
Coast Guard has to spend an enormous amount of time and effort to continually
requalify crew, because of the turnover in the manning of the icebreaker.
Now, there are many other differences that make the Oden a very good bet
for the taxpayer. First of all, it has much more scientific berthing for scientists,
and it also has abundant laboratory space and full instrumentation for
oceanographic research. And that’s a reason why it’s of great interest to us as a
So, we not only get the service of the Oden — on a fixed-price basis,
incidentally — if anything breaks on that ship, or any maintenance has to be
done, or if there are any other operating expenses that weren’t anticipated, it’s
all covered under the fixed price, under the contract. We don’t have to pay that
Representative Oberstar: What you’re really saying is, you don’t really
need to have an NSF-owned icebreaker. It’s probably lower cost and more
Dr. Bement: Well, the only...
Representative Oberstar: ... to (inaudible) with the current arrangement.
Dr. Bement: The current arrangement is a good one, because we’re only
paying for the time we use. In other words, if it’s only in use for two months, we
only pay for two months of the use of the vessel.
That’s much better than owning a vessel for a short season down in the
Antarctic. And that’s a reason why having flexibility to look at various types of
icebreaking providers — and in many cases we’ll have to fall back on the Coast
Guard, there’s no doubt about it, if the need arises and we can’t get other bidders.
But when we can get other bidders, it — it’s much better than the current
arrangement where we have to pay for the entire year, for the vessel, for the
maintenance, the crew costs, the operation — I mean, the training of the crew,55
the readiness to serve — when we’re only using it for a relatively short season.
Still later in the question-and-answer portion of Dr. Bement’s testimony, the
following exchange occurred:
Representative Richardson: I’d like to build a little bit upon what our
Chairman Oberstar was just referencing, regarding the foreign-flagged ships.
You know, someone taught me an old saying. They said, if you have to
make a decision, do the old-fashioned Ben Franklin, and do a positive and a
And I was just a little curious of why were we supporting really another
country’s being able to build up their fleet, and have, as Mr. Oberstar has shared,
you know, can do it all, when we clearly have a fleet that is not adequate? Why
wouldn’t we be putting the money into our own fleet?
55 Source: Transcript of hearing.
Dr. Bement: Well, I’m very sensitive to that point of view. And I don’t
take any issue with the question. I just don’t have a very good answer for it.
Representative Richardson: Well, I’d like to suggest that we may want to
consider, when I was referencing the kind of Ben Franklin pros and cons, the
contractor idea, you know, sure, you might save a few bucks.
But for me, the plus and minuses for the Coast Guard, number one, we have
better security, because from what I understand on our ships, we have more
people who are actually on the vessel. And by having the Coast Guard, they’re
not only doing the icebreaking, but they’re taking care of other tasks.
And if we were to pay for those independently, and you include the cost of
icebreaking, it actually ends up costing us more.
The second point is jobs — I mean, if we’re actually building these.
Third would be a faster response, if we have a national disaster. This
gentleman just talked about the fact that, you know, it was said, help is coming.
Well, I’ve got to tell you. If someone in Finland or Sweden has to choose
between their issue and ours, and we have a national disaster, they’re going to
their home first. They’re not coming to us.
And then, the whole building and maintenance of our own fleet. We need
to maintain some of our own independence, because God forbid, we don’t want
to be stuck with having no fleet, or a fleet that’s not really appropriate, if we
unfortunately come into a time of war. And maybe now we no longer have that
relationship, and they’re not willing to work with us.
So, Mr. Chairman, I would just like to really push back that, as we consider
— and I’ve been listening to the thoughts of the discussion of the hearing thus
far today. It seems like there is a will to have these additional fleets on our end.
But I’d just like to really push the point for the reasons that I just gave. We
need to be more self-dependent, independent ourselves, and not relying upon
some other country to bail us out.
I don’t think that that’s what America is about. And I don’t think, if you had
a choice, that would be probably where you would want to go.
Do you have a comment on that?
Dr. Bement: Well, I think, again, that’s a matter of national policy. And the
National Science Foundation is probably the last agency that ought to be
involved in those kind of determinations.
Our focus is to carry on frontier science and to do it in the most
cost-effective way possible.
And I think you rightly pointed out that the mission space for icebreaking
is suddenly expanded. If I look at the Congressional Research Service report,
they had five particular missions — five specific missions for icebreaking — and
we were bullet number one. But there were four bullets underneath. And those
are totally out of the scope of the National Science Foundation.
So, that’s the only way I could answer your question. But again, I’m very
sympathetic to your point of view.
Representative Richardson: Well, not only sympathetic. We might make
a little money, because then we could contract ourselves. That would be a novel
idea for us.
Dr. Bement: And I might point out, incidentally...
Representative Richardson: I’m sorry?
Dr. Bement: And I might point out, incidentally, that the National Science
Foundation is not the only federal agency leasing ships from the Swedish.
Representative Richardson: Oh, I understand.
Dr. Bement: The Department of Defense is leasing — they’ve leased a
submarine and they’re leasing a merchant vessel from the Swedes to help in their
operations in the Middle East.
So, it’s — you know, the military in-service sealift command is also
involved in leasing vessels from other countries in the world, and...
Representative Richardson: Sir, I’ve down to 30 seconds. I didn’t mean
to insinuate that you’re not the only agency that’s doing it. It’s just — it’s
something I don’t particularly happen to agree with, and would prefer to see us
doing less of.
Mr. Chairman, would you allow me 30 seconds to hear Mr. Weakley’s
comments on that question?
Representative Cummings: Yes.
Representative Richardson: Thank you, sir.
Mr. Weakley:56 May I? There’s no question, I represent American sailors.
I think we have a proud tradition. We have a proud tradition, not just of going to
sea, but I think we build the finest ships in the world. I think the U.S. Merchant
Marine and our shipbuilding capability won World War II.
I’d be happy to take that mission. I think the labor unions that I work with
sitting behind me would welcome the opportunity to man those ships. If it’s a
mission that the Coast Guard can’t handle and it’s seen as more of a private57
sector, we’re ready to step up and meet that challenge.
56 James Weakley, President of the Lake Carriers’ Association and Vice President of the
Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, who was another witness at the hearing.
57 Source: Transcript of hearing.
Appendix C. Memorandum for Chairman of Joint
Chiefs of Staff from DOD Combatant Commanders
This appendix reprints the text of a May 21, 2008, memorandum for the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the topic of icebreaker support signed by
three DOD combatant commanders, each a 4-star general or flag officer.58
MEMORANDUM FOR CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
FROM: CDR USPACOM / CDR USTRANSCOM / CDR USNORTHCOM
SUBJECT: Icebreaker Support
1. The United States has enduring national, strategic, and economic interests in
the Arctic and Antarctic. In the north, the United States is an Arctic nation with
broad and fundamental national security interests. In addition to the essential
requirements for homeland security and maritime domain awareness, the effects
of climate change and increasing economic activity require a more active
presence in this maritime domain. In the south, the United States maintains three
scientific stations. While the mission of the stations is largely scientific, their
presence secures the United States’ influential role in the Antarctic Treaty
decision making process and maintains the balance necessary to maintain our
position on Antarctic sovereignty.
2. To assert our interests in these regions, the United States needs assured access
with reliable icebreaking ships. Today, however, two of the three Coast Guard
icebreakers are nearing the end of their service lives, with one relegated to
caretaker status. Over the past 10 years some routine maintenance has been
deferred and there is no service life extension program for these ships. As a
result, the nation’s icebreaking capability has diminished substantially and is at
risk of being unable to support our national interests in the Arctic regions. An
example of our reduced icebreaking capability is last season’s McMurdo Station
resupply mission where USNS GIANELLA spent 50 hours in pack-ice awaiting
escort from a leased Swedish icebreaker.
3. In summary, icebreakers are essential instruments of United States policy in
the polar regions. We therefore recommend Joint Chiefs of Staff support for the
— A program for the construction of new polar icebreakers to be operated by
the Coast Guard.
— Coast Guard funding to keep existing icebreakers viable until the new ships
— Sufficient Coast Guard operations funding to provide increased, regular and
reliable icebreaker presence in the polar regions.
58 Memorandum for Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, from CDR USPACOM / CDR
USTRANSCOM / CDR USNOTHCOM, Subject: Icebreaker Support. The Navy Office of
Legislative Affairs provided CRS with a copy of the memorandum on September 11, 2008.
Victor E. RenuartNorton A. SchwartzTimothy J. Keating
General, USAF General, USAF Admiral, USN
Commander Commander Commander
U.S. NorthernU. S. TransportationU.S. Pacific Command
C o mma n d C o mma n d C o mma n d
Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard