New White House memorandum calls for polar icebreaker fleet

USCGC Polar Star (Photo: US Coast Guard/Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Masaschi)

A new memorandum recently signed by US President Donald Trump calls for a plan to “develop and execute” a fleet of polar security icebreakers with the goal of supporting US interests in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

Under the memorandum, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in coordination with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), will lead a review of requirements for a polar security icebreaking fleet acquisition program to acquire and employ a suitable fleet of polar security icebreakers, and associated assets and resources, capable of ensuring a persistent US presence in the Arctic and Antarctic regions in support of national interests and in furtherance of the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy, as appropriate.

Separately, the review will include the ability to provide a persistent US presence in the Antarctic region in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty System.

The new icebreakers are expected to be based at two dedicated facilities in the US and at another two international locations following initial deliveries, which are planned for 2029.

The same memorandum requires interim vessels to temporarily take up the polar icebreaking mission from fiscal years 2022 to 2029 in anticipation of the operational degradation of the US Coast Guard heavy icebreaker Polar Star.

The interim vessels will bridge existing capability gaps until the new icebreakers finally enter service.

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