Future of the United States Arctic Presence: The Importance of U.S. Coast Guard Arctic Policy

The Arctic has become an emerging region of importance on the international stage. Climate change in the region has led to the diminishing of perennial ice, opening up the Arctic for nations to capitalize on the untapped resources held in the area. Water temperatures are rising in the Arctic which is causing a melting cycle leading to the opening of shipping lanes and resources such as oil, gas, and fisheries. Actions from the Russian Federation have only increased as they have become the most dominant force in the Arctic. Holding a total of forty-six icebreakers in their Arctic fleet, six of which are nuclear powered, Russia has the best ability to take advantage of the emerging region. The People’s Republic of China, while not being an Arctic state has also increased their presence in the Arctic in recent years. Their own Arctic fleet consists of two heavy icebreakers and a planned nuclear powered icebreaker to meet the demands of the region. Implications from international actors in the Arctic has led to increased interest by the United States and specifically their Arctic-going agency, the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard’s old and outdated icebreaking fleet is in need of an upgrade to supplement the Coast Guard’s increasing role. The future of the United States Arctic policies and presence is dependent on the capabilities of the Coast Guard in the Arctic. Proper acquisition of funding for the Polar Security Cutter program and future assets to further the United States capability in the Arctic is needed. Recommendations for the expediting of the Polar Security Program and the development of the United State’s own nuclear powered icebreaker is needed to meet the ever-increasing demands of the Arctic environment.