PoliticalNews.me - Nov 29,2013 - Alaska, Washington Senators Introduce Bipartisan Icebreaker Amendment
Defense Bill Amendment Authorizes Navy to Build Up to Four Heavy Icebreakers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) introduced a bipartisan amendment last week that would pave the way for the construction of new Coast Guard heavy polar icebreakers. The amendment -- cosponsored by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Patty Murray (D-WA) -- would authorize the U.S. Navy to build up to four heavy-duty polar icebreakers. The icebreaker language was introduced as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (S.1197) currently under consideration in the Senate.
Under the amendment, the Navy would construct up to four heavy icebreakers, and then enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Homeland Security to transfer the vessels to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is the sole service responsible for icebreaking missions.
The United States currently has only two operational icebreakers, the Healy and the Polar Star. The Polar Star is currently in Seattle preparing to depart on December 3rd for Antarctica after years of extensive retrofitting.
“The Nome fuel crisis several years ago demonstrated the need for enhanced icebreaking capability to meet the needs of residents of America’s Arctic as well as our nation’s security needs,” said Senator Begich. “The U.S. is an Arctic nation with national security concerns in the region, particularly as the ice melts and we have greater energy and shipping capabilities, which is exactly why I have joined my colleagues to introduce this amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act and will continue to push for broad support for this measure in the Senate.”
“With Defense Secretary Hagel announcing last Friday that the nation’s military will be very involved in the Arctic region, moving forward towards an Arctic future means icebreakers; this bill would help deliver on that,” said Senator Murkowski. “The Arctic nations are investing in the future to maximize the emerging opportunities there – Russia has 33 icebreakers while we have 2 at best – and even India and China are seeing the need for icebreakers to gain entry to this newly-accessible region. The Coast Guard’s own study showed they needed 10 icebreakers to fulfill their duty in northern waters, so I appreciate this bipartisan effort with the Washington delegation in order to protect our waters and remain at the table in pushing ahead in the Arctic.”
“Icebreakers protect America’s Arctic interests and support Washington state shipbuilding jobs,” said Senator Cantwell. “The Arctic continues to open up, creating new routes for commerce and trade— which is why other nations are acquiring new icebreakers. This amendment is an important step forward to ensure the Coast Guard has the tools it needs to secure our interests and win the race to the Arctic. Our bipartisan effort will help meet our national security priorities in the region and support new jobs in America’s shipyards while solidifying Washington state’s position as our national hub for Arctic commerce