Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress [September 29, 2010] [open pdf - 510KB]
"Coast Guard polar icebreakers perform a variety of missions supporting U.S. interests in polar regions. The Coast Guard's two heavy polar icebreakers--Polar Star and Polar Sea--have exceeded their intended 30-year service lives. The Polar Star is not operational and has been in caretaker status since July 1, 2006. Congress in FY2009 and FY2010 provided funding to repair Polar Star and return it to service for 7 to 10 years; the Coast Guard expects the reactivation project to be completed in 2013. On June 25, 2010, the Coast Guard announced that Polar Sea had suffered an unexpected engine casualty and consequently will likely be unavailable for operation until at least January 2011. The United States, which has various interests in the polar regions, currently has no operational heavy polar icebreakers. The Coast Guard's third polar icebreaker--Healy--entered service in 2000. Compared to Polar Star and Polar Sea, Healy has less icebreaking capability (it is considered a medium polar icebreaker), but more capability for supporting scientific research. The ship is used primarily for supporting scientific research in the Arctic."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34391