As the ice disappears, the Arctic is increasingly busy. On the northern shipping routes, there is an increase in shipping, which is now open for a long time, while demand for oil and gas is rising. The dissolving ice is less predictable, risking ships running aground and spilling oil or spilled cargo, crew and cruise passengers. There are also concerns about illegal fishing and smuggling.
Arctic experts even say that icebreakers must fill a critical military gap in order to strengthen the US presence in a region where nations are fighting for dominance.
The one thing that needs to be done is a ship that is running aground, a crisis in which countries are likely to work together. It could be a different matter if a rival state decides to invade the exclusive economic zone of the US, which is 200 miles offshore, or to reinforce a military demonstration of violence. The presence or absence of an icebreaker could then be a meaningful message of strength or weakness, says more than a dozen polled polar and military experts.
Russia has intensified its production of polar ice breakers to meet President Vladimir Putin's vision of the Arctic as the "future" of Russia. China, Japan and South Korea are also building icebreakers.
"In fact, the United States has ignored the Arctic," said MP John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Who advocated an expanded icebreaker fleet. "We have abandoned the most important sea route between Asia and Europe. Control of the ocean is ceded to Russia and China.
If something happens to the Healy during its Arctic mission, the options are grim. Other allies might help, but the first option would be to send the Polar Star, which could be thousands of miles away, north to relief.
"We are the largest naval power in the world, and we only hope it does." A ship built in the 1970's may take a while, "said Heather Conley, Arctic Senior Vice President, Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonprofit political research group.
Arctic melts and raises alarm bells
The Arctic became critical to US national security during World War II, when it became an important shipping lane for the Soviet war against Hitler In 1941, the year the US entered the war, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote to his finance ministers: "I want the biggest icebreakers in the world."
Until 1944, the year of D-Day the US built seven icebreakers at a Los Angeles shipyard, and three were lent to the Soviets to break the ice over the Arctic Ocean so the US ran much-needed supplies The others were used to support the construction of an airfield in Greenland. These ships would be the pinnacle of the ice breaking power of the United States and the largest fleet in the world.
By the time Polar Star and Polar Sea – both heavy polar-class icebreakers – were being built in the middle, in the 1970s, WWII icebreakers were showing their age. In the mid-1980s, the Coast Guard found that they needed to be replaced and recommended a fleet of four additional icebreakers.
Coast Guard Captain Lawson Brigham was one of the authors of the 1984 report. "We started the process and it was enough to get a ship," the Healy said in 2000. "But back then the two ships of the Polar class 25 years old, "he said. "We should have started to replace them then."
That never happened. Meanwhile, regular investigations and reports from the Coast Guard, the National Academies of Sciences, the Congressional Research Service and other groups of the icebreaker fleet were aging to a dangerous point as the demand for ships increased.
The alarm bells were especially strong in 2007. Arctic sea ice levels dropped to record lows – 38 percent below the average since the late 1970s. A National Academy of Sciences reported that Polarstern and the Polar Sea are "inefficient to operate," and technological systems are becoming increasingly obsolete. This situation has caused great problems in the missionary spirit. "
Some voters in Congress, including Alaska, Washington, and California delegates, addressed the issue at every opportunity, but the scale did not tip.
It was about money.
" We are in a five-nation Arctic race, finishing fifth. "
" I'm concerned that the Coast Guard does not have the resources and assets it needs to carry out increased operations in this region, "said MP Rick Larsen , D-Wash., In a Subcommittee of the Coast Guard and Maritime Subcommittee subcommittee in July 2008. "We are in a race with five nations in the Arctic to finish fifth."
This began during the reign of President To change Barack Obama, Alice Hill, who was Senior Advisor to the Department of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013, said that "icebreakers are a fairly consistent But they did not know how to pay in competing priorities.
The Obama administration took the first steps to finance a new icebreaker and reached $ 175 million in the 2017 budget. But that was not enough to start designing and building a type of ship that has not been built in the United States for over 40 years.
Uncertainty for the Coast Guard
Trump's First Budget Proposal During his presidency in March 2017, this meant a significant increase in defense spending, with one notable exception: the Coast Guard was cut $ 1.3 billion down a wall to finance the border between the US and Mexico.
The Congress eventually restored the Coast Guard funding, and Trump has recently telegraphed support for the Coast Guard. In particular, Trump has praised his response to hurricanes, although he has confused some by referring repeatedly to the Coast Guard's "brand" over the past year and how it is improving. "There's no brand that has emerged in recent years like the Coast Guard because you've done with the hurricanes in that country," Trump said last month in a Thanksgiving conference call with the military.