1
Introduction

The United States has strong interests in the polar regions. In the Arctic there is the State of Alaska and geopolitical relations with the other Arctic nations in play. In the Antarctic there are obligations and leadership roles under the 1961 Antarctic Treaty buttressed by a stated national interest in shaping international policy regarding the Antarctic continent and its surrounding waters. Over the years, Presidential Decision Directives and other statements of national policy have reaffirmed the importance of a U.S. presence and leadership in scientific discovery and stewardship of the polar regions (PDD/NSC-26; 1984 PIRS; 1990 PRS). As clarified in a 1996 Presidential Decision Determination (PDD/NSC-26): “The achievement of United States interests … rests upon the year round presence in Antarctica maintained by the United States Antarctic Program (USAP), the program of scientific research and associated logistics funded and managed by the National Science Foundation.”

With respect to the Arctic, the most recent National Security Council policy review of U.S. Arctic policy, undertaken in 1994, lists “national security and defense” as a principal interest in the Arctic, noting: “Fundamentally, we must ensure that the Arctic Ocean is treated like other oceans for purposes of sovereignty and jurisdictional claims and that these activities are in accord with the principles of the 1982 U.N. Law of the Sea Convention” (NSC-NSDD-90).

U.S. government assets, including ships available in the polar regions are necessary to the support of scientific research, logistics and supply activities, diplomatic missions related to U.S. strategic interests, environmental protection, search and rescue, economic interests, national defense readiness, homeland security readiness, maritime domain awareness, sovereignty and maritime mobility interests, and resource exploration and exploitation.

The U.S. Coast Guard, one of five armed services of the United States, was housed within the Department of Transportation until 2002, when it was transferred to the newly created U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The primary purpose of the U.S. Coast Guard is to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic interests. Section 888 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Preserving Coast Guard Mission Performance, identifies the following Coast Guard mission areas: law enforcement, marine pollution response, search and rescue, providing a U.S. presence, defense operations, and a unique mission in Ice Operations, which include diplomatic treaty activities and support for Department of Defense and civilian scientific research.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 7
Polar Icebreaker Roles and U.S. Future Needs: A Preliminary Assessment 1 Introduction The United States has strong interests in the polar regions. In the Arctic there is the State of Alaska and geopolitical relations with the other Arctic nations in play. In the Antarctic there are obligations and leadership roles under the 1961 Antarctic Treaty buttressed by a stated national interest in shaping international policy regarding the Antarctic continent and its surrounding waters. Over the years, Presidential Decision Directives and other statements of national policy have reaffirmed the importance of a U.S. presence and leadership in scientific discovery and stewardship of the polar regions (PDD/NSC-26; 1984 PIRS; 1990 PRS). As clarified in a 1996 Presidential Decision Determination (PDD/NSC-26): “The achievement of United States interests … rests upon the year round presence in Antarctica maintained by the United States Antarctic Program (USAP), the program of scientific research and associated logistics funded and managed by the National Science Foundation.” With respect to the Arctic, the most recent National Security Council policy review of U.S. Arctic policy, undertaken in 1994, lists “national security and defense” as a principal interest in the Arctic, noting: “Fundamentally, we must ensure that the Arctic Ocean is treated like other oceans for purposes of sovereignty and jurisdictional claims and that these activities are in accord with the principles of the 1982 U.N. Law of the Sea Convention” (NSC-NSDD-90). U.S. government assets, including ships available in the polar regions are necessary to the support of scientific research, logistics and supply activities, diplomatic missions related to U.S. strategic interests, environmental protection, search and rescue, economic interests, national defense readiness, homeland security readiness, maritime domain awareness, sovereignty and maritime mobility interests, and resource exploration and exploitation. The U.S. Coast Guard, one of five armed services of the United States, was housed within the Department of Transportation until 2002, when it was transferred to the newly created U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The primary purpose of the U.S. Coast Guard is to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic interests. Section 888 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Preserving Coast Guard Mission Performance, identifies the following Coast Guard mission areas: law enforcement, marine pollution response, search and rescue, providing a U.S. presence, defense operations, and a unique mission in Ice Operations, which include diplomatic treaty activities and support for Department of Defense and civilian scientific research.

OCR for page 7
Polar Icebreaker Roles and U.S. Future Needs: A Preliminary Assessment To fulfill its multiple missions, the U.S. Coast Guard has established five strategic goals, maritime mobility, national defense, maritime security, protection of natural resources, and maritime safety. Maritime mobility is defined as the facilitation of maritime commerce and elimination of interruptions and impediments to economical movement of goods and people, while maximizing recreational access to and enjoyment of the water. Polar icebreaking to facilitate maritime commerce, scientific exploration, and national security activities are included in the goal of maritime mobility. National defense encompasses the defense of the nation, enhancement of regional stability in support of the National Security Strategy, utilizing our unique and relevant maritime capabilities. Under the goal of maritime security, the U.S. Coast Guard seeks to protect U.S. maritime borders from all intrusions by halting the flow of illegal drugs, migrants, and contraband into this country through maritime routes; prevention against incursions of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); and suppression of violations of federal law in the maritime region. The protection of natural resources involves elimination of environmental damage and natural resource degradation associated with maritime activities, including transportation, commercial fishing, and recreational boating. The maritime safety mission focuses on the elimination of deaths, injuries, and property damage associated with maritime transportation, fishing, and recreational boating. Recent observations of the Arctic and the Antarctic indicate pronounced large-scale environmental change. Continuing support of U.S. interests in the polar regions under changing environmental conditions, especially with potential increases in strategic and commercial endeavors in the Arctic, may affect future demand for icebreaker services. The dramatic decrease in Arctic summer sea ice extent coincident with potential ecosystem changes are giving rise to increased scientific study in the Arctic. This decrease in sea ice extent is expected to increase commerce, military operations, and transit in the Arctic (Arctic Marine Transport Workshop, 2004), accelerating demand for access and support operations required by treaties, laws, and other internal and external U.S. policies. Since 1965, the U.S. Coast Guard has been the sole federal agency responsible for providing national polar icebreaking capabilities. Whenever and wherever a U.S. Coast Guard ship is operating, it is available to perform one or more of its other missions as the situation requires, such as assisting national defense, search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, and marine environmental protection. Although the U.S. Coast Guard ships encompass the full range of normal U.S. Coast Guard missions, in the Antarctic the primary mission of the two heavy icebreaking vessels, the POLAR STAR and the POLAR SEA, is to break open a channel in the ice to allow access to, and re-supply of McMurdo Research Station and, from there, the rest of continental Antarctica including South Pole Station. This logistic support is critical to the integrity of the U.S. Antarctic Program. In the Arctic, the newest U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, the HEALY, is a specially designed dual purpose ship that breaks ice in direct support of scientific research. Users of the ship’s time, such as the NSF and NOAA, have traditionally reimbursed some portion of the operational costs. The U.S. Coast Guard missions support multiple governmental responsibilities and associated agencies, and these interests are overseen by multiple congressional Committees. This arrangement of decentralized stakeholders and oversight complicates authorization and appropriations for the maintenance, operation, and recapitalization of the ships that deliver these required icebreaking capabilities. Thus, we face a challenge today: the aging condition of the U.S. Coast Guard POLAR SEA and POLAR STAR requires that significant U.S. government

OCR for page 7
Polar Icebreaker Roles and U.S. Future Needs: A Preliminary Assessment investment is needed to continue their service and/or to replace them. While there are many stakeholders and potential users directly and/or indirectly reliant on icebreaking capabilities in the Arctic and the Antarctic, the path or mechanism to rebuild these necessary capabilities is unclear. In the fall of 2004, Congress passed PL 108-334, instructing the U.S. Coast Guard to request assistance on this issue from the National Academies. In response, the National Academies created the Committee on the Assessment of U.S. Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Roles and Future Needs in June, 2005. The principal task of the Committee is to provide a comprehensive assessment of the current and future roles of U.S. Coast Guard polar icebreakers in supporting U.S. operations in the Antarctic and the Arctic (Appendix A). The Committee’s goal is to look at past, current, and anticipated future needs for U.S. icebreaking capabilities, exploring different scenarios of operation, from continuation of current operations to innovative alternative approaches, and also to consider how the nation’s need for icebreaking capabilities will change in the Arctic in the context of on-going and future environmental change. The Committee will conduct its work in two phases. First, it will provide an interim report that presents the foundation materials needed for urgent decision making. Second, the Committee will produce a detailed report in the summer of 2006 with recommendations for future actions that meets the requirement for a comprehensive study that cannot be accomplished in the initial timeframe. Each of these reports will provide the information needed by Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Science Foundation, and other relevant agencies (e.g., the U.S. Department of State, Department of Defense, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) with responsibilities related to the U.S. presence in polar regions for the decision making process. In this interim report, the Committee specifically focuses on Tasks 1a and 3 of its Statement of Task (Appendix A) and provides foundation materials needed for urgent decision making. Focusing on Task 1a, the Committee describes present uses of polar icebreakers with respect to the relevant missions in the Antarctic and the Arctic, including national defense, homeland security, support of economic activity, law enforcement, search and rescue, environmental protection, and the support of and conduct of science, as part of an overall demand for icebreaking services. In response to Task 3, the Committee describes potential changes in the roles and missions of U.S. Coast Guard polar icebreakers in support of future marine operations in the Arctic that may develop due to environmental change. The Committee was told that the findings and recommendations in this report could be useful for informing FY07 budget decisions. Although the Statement of Task does not request the Committee to make management recommendations, it explicitly instructs the Committee to provide materials for urgent decision making. The Committee believes that management recommendations are useful to both Congress and OMB to help in resolving the U.S Coast Guard icebreaker issue for FY07 and until a long-term solution can be found.

OCR for page 7
Polar Icebreaker Roles and U.S. Future Needs: A Preliminary Assessment This page intentionally left blank.