Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress [December 14, 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. […] On September 1, 2015, the White House issued a fact sheet in conjunction with a visit to Alaska by President Obama indicating that the Administration, in its own internal planning, had at some point over the past two years deferred procurement of a new polar icebreaker to FY2022, but that this has now been changed to FY2020. The newly announced procurement date of FY2020 is a two-year acceleration from the previously unpublicized date of FY2022, and a two-year deferral from the FY2018 date implied in the FY2013 and FY2014 budget submissions. The fact sheet states that the Administration will also 'begin planning for construction of additional icebreakers' beyond the one that the Administration proposes to procure in FY2020."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34391
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html