Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress [June 23, 2015]   [open pdf - 687KB]

"The Coast Guard's FY2013 budget initiated a new project for the design and construction of a new polar icebreaker, but the timing and execution of this project have become uncertain. The project received $7.609 million in FY2013, $2.0 million in FY2014, and no funding in FY2015. The Coast Guard's proposed FY2016 budget requests $4 million to continue initial acquisition activities for the ship. A new polar icebreaker might cost roughly $900 million to $1.1 billion. 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 originally intended 30-year service lives. 'Polar Star' was placed in caretaker status on July 1, 2006. Congress in FY2009 and FY2010 provided funding to repair it and return it to service for an additional 7 to 10 years of service; the repair work was completed and the ship was reactivated on December 14, 2012. On June 25, 2010, the Coast Guard announced that 'Polar Sea' had suffered an unexpected engine casualty; the ship was unavailable for operation after that. The Coast Guard placed 'Polar Sea' in commissioned, inactive status on October 14, 2011. […] A central issue for polar icebreaker modernization is whether, when, and how to fund the procurement of a new polar icebreaker. Beginning with the Coast Guard's FY2014 budget submission, the timing and execution of this project have become uncertain. The Coast Guard states that 'in order to fully fund subsequent phases of this program, the Coast Guard believes that a 'whole-of-government' approach will be necessary."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL34391
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