Sullivan Secures Authorization of Six New Polar Icebreakers in Defense Bill

WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously passed out of committee the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision authored by U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) to authorize the procurement of up to six U.S. Coast Guard polar-class icebreakers.

“The United States continues to be late to the game in the Arctic, as evidenced most clearly by our meager existing fleet of Coast Guard icebreakers capable of operating in this important region,” said Senator Sullivan. “My colleagues on the Armed Services Committee recognize this shortfall, and worked with me – in a bipartisan fashion – to incorporate this critical and long overdue authorization for six new icebreakers into this year’s NDAA. With rapidly increasing commercial activity and sea traffic in the Arctic and Russia’s alarming military build-up, America can no long afford to neglect this area of the globe. I am hopeful that my provision and the larger NDAA will be considered by the full Senate in the near future.”

Offered as an amendment to the FY 2018 NDAA – and cosponsored by Sens. Angus King (I-ME) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) – Senator Sullivan’s provision would authorize up to six polar-class icebreakers for the Coast Guard, including both medium and heavy icebreakers.  Additionally, Sullivan’s amendment requires a report from the Government Accountability Office to study how best to quickly procure icebreakers at the best value for the U.S. taxpayer.


  • The United States currently has only two operational polar icebreakers, the heavy icebreaker Polar Star – which was commissioned in 1976 – and the medium-duty Healy – which was designed for scientific research.
  • Russia has 41 governmental and privately owned conventional and nuclear icebreakers, with 11 additional icebreakers in development or planning, including three new nuclear-powered icebreakers to be completed by 2020.

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