Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress [December 23, 2009]   [open pdf - 459KB]

"Of the Coast Guard's three polar icebreakers, two--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. A 2007 report from the National Research Council (NRC) on the U.S. polar icebreaking fleet states that 'U.S. [polar] icebreaking capability is now at risk of being unable to support national interests in the north and the south.' On July 16, 2008, Admiral Thad Allen, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, testified that: 'Today, our nation is at a crossroads with Coast Guard domestic and international icebreaking capabilities. We have important decisions to make. And I believe we must address our icebreaking needs now.... ' […]. 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."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL34391
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