ICYMI: Defense News & Breaking Defense on White House Arctic Memo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) was mentioned in Defense News and Breaking Defense, two leading publications that cover the Pentagon and national defense issues, regarding the Memorandum on Safeguarding U.S. National Interests in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions, released by the White House on Tuesday. The memorandum calls for assets and resources in the Arctic to ensure a persistent United States presence in the area, including a fleet of polar security icebreakers that is operationally tested and fully deployable by Fiscal Year 2029.

Trump memo demands new fleet of Arctic icebreakers be ready by 2029

By David B. Larter ,Joe Gould, and Aaron Mehta

June 10, 2020

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Trump ordered a review of the country’s requirements for icebreaking capabilities in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, with the goal of getting a fleet in place by 2029, according to a memo released Tuesday. 

The memo was directed at the Defense, State, Commerce and Homeland Security departments, as well as the Office of Management and Budget.

Much of it directs work already in progress — including building a fleet of at least three heavy icebreakers — but says the remaining ships not under contract should be reviewed for what can be done to maximize their utility in the frozen poles.

The memo calls for “an assessment of expanded operational capabilities, with estimated associated costs, for both heavy and medium [polar security cutters] not yet contracted for, specifically including the maximum use of any such PSC with respect to its ability to support national security objectives.” That assessment is due in 60 days.

Trump’s directive to assess the current plan to field an Arctic maritime capability over the next decade is the latest sign that the administration is increasingly concerned about Russian and Chinese activity in the northern region, which could threaten America’s interests in crucial chokepoints, such as the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom Gap.


White House Orders New Icebreaker Strategy For Coast Guard

By Paul McLeary

June 9, 2020 

WASHINGTON: The White House today ordered a major rethink of current plans for a new Coast Guard heavy icebreaker fleet, calling for the ability to launch drones, install intelligence-collection systems, and consider “defensive armament” to “defend against threats by near-peer competitors” and consider the “potential for nuclear-powered propulsion.”

The call to consider new designs for at least three ships already slated to be built over the next half-decade is a sure sign of growing concern in Washington over Russian and Chinese advances in putting more heavy, nuclear-powered ships in the water while the US remains stuck with just two 40 year-old operational breakers. The Coast Guard already has plans for three new, non-nuclear icebreakers to be built by 2026, with several medium icebreakers to follow in later years. It’s not clear if the White House is asking for a complete redesign of those ships, but the memo clearly indicates a desire to expand their capabilities significantly.

The memo gives acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf, in conjunction with the State and Defense departments, just 60 days to come up with a plan to run a study of how to build a new icebreaking fleet that consists of “at least” three heavy polar-class security cutters that are “operationally tested and fully deployable by Fiscal Year 2029.”