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UPDATE: Murkowski’s Campaign to Construct a New Polar Icebreaker Moves Closer to Reality

Murkowski has advocated and argued for full funding to construct a polar icebreaker for years


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ICYMI: On Tuesday we told you (release below) the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee added $1 billion to fully fund construction of the first U.S. Polar Icebreaker in over 25 years. Today the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2017 Defense appropriations bill, which includes the $1 billion for a Polar icebreaker, and now heads to the Senate floor for final consideration.

 

Click here for audio of Murkowski discussing full funding of a polar icebreaker during today’s markup of the bill.   

 

Murkowski has advocated and argued for full funding to construct a polar icebreaker for years. Here are some of the examples which lay out Murkowski’s efforts.

 

·         January 2016 – The Arctic Caucus, which Senator Murkowski is a co-chair, partnered with CSIS, to hold an event on National Security Challenges and Icebreaking Operations in the Arctic, highlighting the urgent need for the US to fund construction of new heavy icebreakers.  

·         June 2015—Murkowski includes language in Defense Appropriations bill, pressing the Pentagon for a report on the prospective requirements for a Polar Class Icebreaker.

·         June 2015—Murkowski filed an NDAA amendment authorizing DoD to contribute to the maintenance and refurbishment of existing icebreakers and help fund the construction of new icebreakers.

·         May 2015—Murkowski joins Senator Cantwell (D-WA) to introduce the Icebreaker Recapitalization Act, to authorize the U.S. Navy to construct up to 6 heavy icebreakers that would be designed and operated by the Coast Guard.

·         May 2015—The Senate unanimously passed an amendment Murkowski secured in the Senate Budget Resolution, making the construction of polar icebreakers a national priority.

·         March 2015—Senator Murkowski formed the U.S. Senate Arctic Caucus, along with Senator King (I-ME) to discuss Arctic policy, building awareness and understanding to the nation that the Arctic should be a national priority.

·         December 2014—Murkowski added language to the year-end funding bill, requiring the Department of Defense to work with the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard to address the nation’s shortage of polar icebreakers.

·         October 2014—Murkowski visited the POLAR SEA, one of America’s two heavy icebreakers, laid up in Seattle in inactive status, which furthered her concerns that the U.S. is continuously falling behind in Arctic capabilities.

·         March 2014—After Vice Admiral Paul Z, Zukunft was nominated as USCG Commandant, Murkowski met with him to discuss the need for icebreakers.

·         March 2014—Murkowski pressed DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson on the Administration’s commitment to the icebreaker program, given the lack of details and prioritization specified in the President’s 2015 budget.

·         July 2013—The Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee continued to allocate funding for the USCG’s icebreaker program at Senator Murkowski’s request.

·         March 2012—In a Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Murkowski questioned DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano whether icebreaker acquisition is truly a priority for the Obama Administration, given the small amount of funding in the President’s budget requested for the project.

·         November 2011—Murkowski sent a letter to USCG Commandant Admiral Robert Papp, urging him to move forward with a required analysis on acquiring new icebreakers for the Arctic.

·         September 2011—The Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, of with Murkowski is a member, allocated $39 million for the USCG’s icebreaker program.

·         April 2010 to June 2010—Murkowski speaks at five separate events on the need to acquire or construct more Arctic-capable icebreakers.

·         April 2010—Murkowski discussed the need for modernization of the nation’s icebreaker fleet with then-USCG Commandant Admiral Thad W. Allen in a Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.

·         July 2009—Murkowski introduced a pair of bills to fund construction of two new Polar class icebreakers.

·         June 2009—In her first year as member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Murkowski successfully secured $32.5 million to reactivate the heavy icebreaker POLAR STAR and directed the USCG to begin looking into constructing a new icebreaker.

·         May 2009—Senator Murkowski testified as a witness before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the need to ramp up America’s polar icebreaking capability.

·         August 2008—Murkowski called on the Bush administration to fund a new icebreaker construction initiative.

·         July 2007—Spoke of the need to invest in the nation’s aging polar icebreaker fleet at a Symposium on the Impact of an Ice-Diminished Arctic on Naval and Maritime and Naval Operations.

 

May 24, 2016

Murkowski’s Campaign to Construct a New Polar Icebreaker Moves Closer to Reality

$1 Billion for Polar Icebreaker Construction Included in 2017 Defense Appropriations Bill

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, of which U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is a member, added $1 billion to fully fund construction of the first U.S. Polar Icebreaker in over 25 years.

 

“This is a significant victory in my decade-long fight to turn our nation’s focus to the Arctic and embrace our role as an Arctic nation. This is the first tangible demonstration that we are committed to fulfilling the responsibilities associated with our strategic geography. I have long fought to fully fund the acquisition of Arctic-capable icebreakers instead of the piece-meal approach that the Administration has been taking for the last eight years. This funding moves the concept of a new icebreaker from aspiration to reality, and I thank my Appropriations colleagues for recognizing the importance of this vessel to our national security,” said Senator Murkowski. “A robust icebreaker fleet is critical for the Coast Guard to carry out its mission in the Arctic—whether to monitor increased levels of shipping activity or to carry out its traditional search and rescue activities. This is an extremely positive step towards the fully operational icebreaker fleet needed for the safety and security of the Arctic region.”

 

Click here for audio of Senator Murkowski speaking in the Defense Appropriations markup about the need for icebreakers.

 

The U.S. Coast Guard has said it needs three heavy and three medium icebreakers to fulfill its mission. It currently has one medium vessel and two 40-year-old heavy vessels—one of which has been out of service since 2010. In comparison, Russia has 11 heavy icebreakers.

 

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to report the Fiscal Year 2017 Defense Appropriations Bill, which includes these funds, on Thursday, after which it heads to the Senate floor.

 

Background: In March 2015, Senator Murkowski formed the U.S. Senate Arctic Caucus, along with Senator King (I-ME) to discuss Arctic policy, building awareness and understanding to the nation that the Arctic should be a national priority. Murkowski is also a member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee

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