The Coast Guard’s plan to build a new heavy icebreaker for the Arctic to join the 40-year-old Polar Star could still be in the design phase in 2020 despite an "accelerated acquisition timeline," and that’s assuming Congress goes along with the funding.
"We’d like to begin construction activity by 2020," Ahmed Majumder, the deputy program manager for the icebreaker plan, said this week at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space exposition at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C.
The program could still be in the design phase but "we might be able to accelerate that" depending on funding from Congress, Majumder said. He said the Coast Guard was asking for $150 million for icebreaker construction and design in the fiscal 2017 budget. The projected cost of the new icebreaker was in the $1 billion range.
The Coast Guard, part of the Department of Homeland Security, currently has one heavy icebreaker, the 399-foot Polar Star which was commissioned in 1976, and the 420-foot medium icebreaker Healy, which was commissioned in 2000.
According to DHS, the nation actually needs two new icebreakers for both the Arctic and Antarctic regions "to ensure continued access to both polar regions and to support the country’s economic, commercial, maritime and national security needs."