Murkowski Welcomes Coast Guard Heavy Icebreaker Deploying to the Arctic
Safeguarding Economic and National Security Interests in the Arctic Region
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) applauded the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) announcement that the USCG’s POLAR STAR, our nation’s sole operational icebreaker is deploying to the Arctic. The U.S. Coast Guard announced that beginning in early December 2020, POLAR STAR, a heavy icebreaker, will conduct an 82-day deployment in the Arctic, primarily in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, to execute Coast Guard statutory missions, reduce regional maritime risks, and advance national security objectives. This will mark the first time since 1984 the Arctic had a U.S. polar class icebreaker in the region.
“I am working hard to ensure that America is well positioned to assert and defend our interests as geo-strategic activity in the Arctic increases at remarkable rates. As we continue to push for more icebreakers, I welcome news that America’s only operational heavy icebreaker, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter POLAR STAR and her crew, will serve in America's Arctic this winter. While the USCGC POLAR STAR typically operates in Antarctica on resupply missions, this year Antarctica will be resupplied by aircraft and our area will enjoy USCGC POLAR STAR's presence instead,” said Senator Murkowski. “I look forward to a strong Coast Guard maritime domain asset in our waters and will be excited to see the great work the crew will accomplish during this time. USCGC POLAR STAR providing maritime domain presence and leadership this year will be a tremendous asset to the region, and in the years to come I look forward to the future fleet of Polar Security Cutters providing the same.”
Senator Murkowski is committed to raising awareness of America’s role as an Arctic nation as well as action necessary to support it. Murkowski has advocated for assets and capabilities needed for the region, such as a full fleet of Polar Security Cutters – icebreakers – to support America’s national security and solidify our leadership in both the Arctic and Antarctic. In the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations bill, Senator Murkowski successfully advocated for robust funding for the U.S. Coast Guard, including assets and infrastructure which provided $100 million for long-lead time materials for design and construction for a second Polar Security Cutter. In the Fiscal Year 2019 bill, Murkowski successfully secured full funding for design and construction of a heavy Polar Security Cutter, the nation’s the first heavy polar security cutter in more than forty years. The bill also provided $20 million for long-lead time materials for a second Polar Security Cutter.
The POLAR STAR previously has been operating in the Antarctic to support an annual joint military service mission called Operation Deep Freeze (ODF). But due to weather and ice conditions and risks related to COVID-19, the POLAR STAR is not required to deploy in support of ODP this year.
Murkowski is the senior Senator for Alaska, America’s only Arctic state. She is also co-chair of the Senate Arctic Caucus and a member of the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region.