Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress [July 15, 2008]   [open pdf - 162KB]

"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 caretaker status since July 1, 2006. The Coast Guard has begun initial studies on replacements for Polar Star and Polar Sea. Under the Coast Guard's current schedule, the first replacement ship might enter service in 8 to 10 years. 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.' Congress, in the explanatory statement for the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 2764/P.L. 110-161 of December 26, 2007), expressed concern about the Coast Guard's ability to meet its polar operations mission requirements and directed the Coast Guard to submit a comprehensive report on the issue. […] Congress's options regarding Coast Guard polar icebreaker modernization include but are not limited to the following: approving the Coast Guard's current plan; holding hearings to solicit additional information on the issue; directing the Coast Guard to include the option of nuclear power in its studies of requirements for future icebreakers; directing the Coast Guard to pursue a particular acquisition strategy for icebreaker modernization; accelerating the procurement of new icebreakers relative to the Coast Guard's current plan; funding the procurement of new icebreakers in the DOD or NSF [National Science Foundation] budget rather than the Coast Guard budget; and directing the Coast Guard to reactivate Polar Star. This report will be updated as events warrant."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL34391
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