Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress [September 25, 2015] [open pdf - 1MB]
"Coast Guard polar icebreakers perform a variety of missions supporting U.S. interests in polar regions. The operational U.S. polar icebreaking fleet currently consists of one heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Star, and one medium polar icebreaker, 'Healy'. A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Mission Need Statement (MNS) approved in June 2013 states that 'current requirements and future projections ... indicate the Coast Guard will need to expand its icebreaking capacity, potentially requiring a fleet of up to six icebreakers (3 heavy and 3 medium) to adequately meet mission demands in the high latitudes.... ' In addition to 'Polar Star', the Coast Guard has a second heavy polar icebreaker, 'Polar Sea'. This ship suffered an engine casualty in June 2010 and has been non-operational since then. 'Polar Star' and 'Polar Sea' entered service in 1976 and 1978, respectively, and are now well beyond their originally intended 30-year service lives. This situation--combined with the MNS statement about the Coast Guard needing up to three heavy polar icebreakers and concerns among some observers about whether the United States is adequately investing in capabilities to carry out its responsibilities and defend its interests in the Arctic--has focused policymaker attention on the question of whether and when to procure one or more new heavy polar icebreakers as replacements for 'Polar Star' and 'Polar Sea'. A new heavy polar icebreaker might cost roughly $900 million to $1.1 billion to procure."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34391
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html