Cantwell Applauds Inclusion of Icebreakers in Administration’s Proposed Budget, Calls for National Arctic Strategy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, applauded the Administration’s inclusion of icebreaker funding in the proposed FY2017 budget, allowing for replacement icebreakers and acquisition of new icebreakers to improve the U.S. outdated fleet. Senator Cantwell also renewed her call for a comprehensive national icebreaker strategy.

“It’s critical the Coast Guard has the tools they need to meet their mission requirements in the Arctic. Today's announcement is a good first step in meeting our national interests in the Arctic, and good news for shipbuilding jobs. I will continue to push for building new icebreakers in Congress and work with the administration to move these new icebreakers through the budget process,” said Senator Cantwell.

“Today, I am renewing my call for a national Arctic strategy – from science to shipping and trade to natural resource opportunities.  We need the assets to ensure we can safely operate in the Arctic. That means icebreakers, aircraft and oil spill response infrastructure. The Arctic is of national importance to our economic prosperity. Furthermore, I am continuing to push for funding of the Polar Sea icebreaker refurbishment to ensure our continued presence in the Arctic,” the Senator continued.

For the last decade, Cantwell has championed efforts to improve the United States’ icebreaker fleet. The U.S. is lagging behind other Arctic nations such as Russia in developing and maintaining polar icebreakers. Russia currently operates 29 icebreakers including 11 icebreakers with comparable capabilities to the United States. Russia has six icebreakers under construction with plans for five additional icebreakers.

Adequate investment in the U.S. polar icebreaking fleet is particularly vital to the men, women and families in the Coast Guard based in Seattle, WA. Coast Guard members’ safety and ability to protect our nation’s environmental and national security priorities is dependent on the resources provided to them.  

Earlier this year, Senator Cantwell held a hearing on U.S. strategy in the Arctic and introduced bipartisan legislation, the Icebreaker Recapitalization Act, with Senator Murkowski (R-AK) authorizing the U.S. Navy to construct up to six heavy icebreakers to be designed and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. In March, she also sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security to request additional funding for the Coast Guard in Fiscal Year 2016.

Last year, Cantwell cosponsored legislation that would have approved the Coast Guard to overhaul the heavy icebreaker Polar Sea, now idle at Seattle’s Pier 36, and return it to service.  In 2012, Congress passed Cantwell amendment, which prevented the Polar Sea from going to the scrapyard. Cantwell has long advocated for strengthening our nation’s fleet of polar icebreakers and for protecting the Polar Sea.