Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background, Issues and Options for Congress [July 2, 2010]   [open pdf - 487KB]

"The Coast Guard since 2008 has been studying how many polar icebreakers, with what capabilities, should be procured as replacements for Polar Star and Polar Sea. Following a decision to design and build one or more new polar icebreakers, the first replacement polar icebreaker might enter service in 8 to 10 years, by which time Polar Star and Polar Sea could be more than 40 years old. 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 Polar Start and/or Polar Sea; 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. The Coast Guard's proposed FY2011 budget does not request any funding in the service's Acquisition, Construction, and Improvements (AC&I) account for polar icebreaker sustainment or for acquisition of new polar icebreakers."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL34391
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