Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp testified before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Marine Transportation on, “Protecting U.S. Sovereignty: Coast Guard Operations in the Arctic,” Thursday.
During the hearing, Papp discussed issues facing the Arctic, national policy objectives and capacity to support Arctic operations. He also defined the Coast Guard’s role in the Arctic:
“The United States is an Arctic Nation, and the Coast Guard has been operating in the Arctic since Alaska was a territory to assist scientific exploration, chart the waters, provide humanitarian assistance to native tribes, conduct search and rescue and law enforcement. Today our mission remains remarkably similar to what it was in 1867; however, as open water continues to replace ice, human activity is increasing. With increasingly navigable waters, comes increased Coast Guard responsibility.”
Papp also explained how the Coast Guard works to perform its duties in the Arctic with limited resources, while preparing for tomorrow’s needs:
“Given the scope of these challenges, we have adopted a ‘Whole of Nation’ approach working with other state, local and tribal governments, other Federal government agencies and private industry. We are leveraging international partnerships, such as the recent search and rescue agreement, to meet current mission requirements. The Coast Guard’s strategic approach is to ensure we pursue the capability to perform our statutory missions so we can ensure the Arctic is safe, secure and environmentally sustainable.”
With significant attention on icebreakers, Papp outlined his vision for icebreaking capability in the Arctic:
“Icebreaking capability is vital to meet our responsibilities in the region. Although the risk of an incident in ice-covered U.S. waters is currently low, our Nation must plan for ice capable assets in the future that can effectively carry out year-round search and rescue, environmental response and other Arctic operations. In the near term, the Coast Guard can utilize the Healy, and starting in 2013, Polar Star, to manage the response or rely on our foreign Arctic partners that have icebreakers operating in the area.”
Additional information on the Coast Guard’s direction in the Arctic is also available in a recent article written by Papp and published in Coast Guard Outlook magazine.