Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress [February 24, 2012]   [open pdf - 815KB]

"The Coast Guard's proposed FY2013 budget includes $8 million in acquisition funding to initiate survey and design activities for a new polar icebreaker. The Coast Guard's Five Year Capital Investment Plan includes an additional $852 million in FY2014-FY2017 for acquiring the ship. The Coast Guard anticipates awarding a construction contract for the ship 'within the next five years' and taking delivery on the ship 'within a decade.' The project to design and build a polar icebreaker is a new acquisition project initiated in the FY2013 budget. Coast Guard polar icebreakers perform a variety of missions supporting U.S. interests in polar regions. The Coast Guard's two existing heavy polar icebreakers--'Polar Star' and 'Polar Sea'-- have exceeded their intended 30-year service lives, and neither is currently operational. […] 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. […] Potential issues for Congress regarding Coast Guard polar icebreaker modernization include the potential impact on U.S. polar missions of the United States currently having no operational heavy polar icebreakers; the numbers and capabilities of polar icebreakers the Coast Guard will need in the future; the disposition of 'Polar Sea' following its decommissioning; whether the new polar icebreaker initiated in the FY23013 budget should be funded with incremental funding […] or full funding in a single year […]; whether new polar icebreakers should be funded entirely in the Coast Guard budget, or partly or entirely in some other part of the federal budget […]; whether to provide future icebreaking capability through construction of new ships or service life extensions of existing polar icebreakers; and whether future polar icebreakers should be acquired through a traditional acquisition or a leasing arrangement."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL34391
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