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 incremental costs associated with directed mission tasking.
The U.S. need for polar icebreaking has been studied several times over the past two decades. This committee has reviewed these studies and believes the essential conclusions remain the same. As a nation with citizens in the Arctic and a significant, continuing investment in the Antarctic, the United States has a clear obligation to assure the welfare of these citizens and to protect its interests in the polar regions. The polar icebreaker fleet has been described as a national asset that is capable of meeting multiple missions. The committee concurs with previous studies and strongly supports renewal of the nation’s polar icebreaking capability.
The last declaration of presidential-level policy regarding the U.S. requirements for polar icebreaking was a Presidential Report to Congress in 1990. While recognizing the national need for polar icebreaker operations, that report does not adequately address current and future issues.
Immediate policy action is needed for several reasons: wholesale ship obsolescence in the fleet; lack of adequate U.S. Coast Guard capability in the Arctic; increased human presence and economic activity in the Arctic region; and threats to Native Alaskan communities due to accelerating environmental changes. Clear direction for sustaining these capabilities needs to be asserted to ensure that the United States does not find itself without adequate polar icebreaking capability in the future as it has in the past and as it does today. If the multimission ships are to be used most effectively as a national asset, then the agency with the core mission to support the polar icebreaking needs of the nation— the U.S. Coast Guard—must have adequate budgetary authority and operational control of these ships. The committee has reviewed laws and statutory authorities related to U.S. polar icebreaking and finds these to be adequate. There is a need, however, for policy clarification within the Executive Branch. The U.S. Coast Guard operational mission in the ice-covered waters of the Arctic needs to be reaffirmed.
Recommendation 7: 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 align agency responsibilities and budgetary authorities.