Murkowski’s Campaign to Construct a New Polar Icebreaker Moves Closer to Reality

Today the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, of which U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is a member, added $1 billion to fully fund construction of the first U.S. Polar Icebreaker in over 25 years.

“This is a significant victory in my decade-long fight to turn our nation’s focus to the Arctic and embrace our role as an Arctic nation. This is the first tangible demonstration that we are committed to fulfilling the responsibilities associated with our strategic geography. I have long fought to fully fund the acquisition of Arctic-capable icebreakers instead of the piece-meal approach that the Administration has been taking for the last eight years. This funding moves the concept of a new icebreaker from aspiration to reality, and I thank my Appropriations colleagues for recognizing the importance of this vessel to our national security,” said Senator Murkowski. “A robust icebreaker fleet is critical for the Coast Guard to carry out its mission in the Arctic—whether to monitor increased levels of shipping activity or to carry out its traditional search and rescue activities. This is an extremely positive step towards the fully operational icebreaker fleet needed for the safety and security of the Arctic region.”

Click here for audio of Senator Murkowski speaking in the Defense Appropriations markup about the need for icebreakers.

The U.S. Coast Guard has said it needs three heavy and three medium icebreakers to fulfill its mission. It currently has one medium vessel and two 40-year-old heavy vessels—one of which has been out of service since 2010. In comparison, Russia has 11 heavy icebreakers.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to report the Fiscal Year 2017 Defense Appropriations Bill, which includes these funds, on Thursday, after which it heads to the Senate floor.

Background: In March 2015, Senator Murkowski formed the U.S. Senate Arctic Caucus, along with Senator King (I-ME) to discuss Arctic policy, building awareness and understanding to the nation that the Arctic should be a national priority. Murkowski is also a member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. 

Related Issues: Arctic