(Updated Edition, June 2017) The operational U.S. polar icebreaking fleet currently consists of one heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Star, and one medium polar icebreaker, Healy. In addition to Polar Star, the Coast Guard has a second heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Sea. This ship suffered an engine casualty in June 2010 and has been non-operational since then. Polar Star and Polar Sea entered service ...
Paperback: 116 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; CRS Report R41153 - June 2017 edition (June 27, 2017)
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1978, respectively, and are now well beyond their originally intended 30-year service lives. A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Mission Need Statement (MNS) approved in June 2013 states that “current requirements and future projections ... indicate the Coast Guard will need to expand its icebreaking capacity, potentially requiring a fleet of up to six icebreakers (3 heavy and 3 medium) to adequately meet mission demands in the high latitudes....” The current condition of the U.S. polar icebreaker fleet, the DHS MNS, and concerns among some observers about whether the United States is adequately investing in capabilities to carry out its responsibilities and defend its interests in the Arctic, have focused policymaker attention on the question of whether and when to acquire one or more new heavy polar icebreakers as replacements for Polar Star and Polar Sea. On September 1, 2015, the White House issued a fact sheet in conjunction with a visit to Alaska by President Obama indicating that the Obama Administration wanted to begin building a new polar icebreaker, and that the Obama Administration would also “begin planning for construction of additional icebreakers.” A project to acquire a new polar icebreaker was initiated in Coast Guard’s FY2013 budget submission. The total acquisition cost of the ship has not been officially estimated but might be roughly $1 billion, including design costs. The project has received about $220.6 million in acquisition funding through FY2017, including $175 million in FY2017 that was provided in the Coast Guard’s acquisition account ($25 million) and the Navy’s shipbuilding account ($150 million). The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $19 million in acquisition funding for the ship. The Coast Guard’s FY2017-FY2021 five-year Capital Investment Plan (CIP) included a total of $780 million in acquisition funding for a new polar icebreaker. The Coast Guard’s notional schedule for the polar icebreaker program, which could change, shows a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) being released in the first quarter of FY2017, a final RFP being released in the fourth quarter of FY2017 or the first quarter of FY2018, Coast Guard evaluation of received proposals taking place from the third or fourth quarter of FY2018 through the third or fourth quarter of FY2019, a contract award being made in the third or fourth quarter of FY2019, and construction of the ship beginning in the third or fourth quarter of FY2019. A polar icebreaker that begins construction in FY2019 might enter service in 2023. Polar Star has been refurbished and reentered service in December 2012 for an intended period of 7 to 10 years—a period that will end between December 2019 and December 2022. The Coast Guard is examining the feasibility and potential cost effectiveness of either further extending the service life of Polar Star so as to bridge the time between the end of Polar Star’s intended current 7- to 10-year operating period and the entry into service of a new polar icebreaker.