Adm. Thad Allen, Coast Guard
commandant, will present findings
from both studies to Congress this
“As the seasonal ice retreats and
leaves more open water, we have
increasing mission responsibilities
in the region that we are obligated to
meet,” he told Seapower.
While speaking at the Surface
Navy Association’s 21st National
Symposium Jan. 13, Allen said the
resources the service has deployed
in the Arctic are not as effective as
they can and should be to meet the mission requirements in the region.
However, during the Seapower interview, the commandant said the service will make no short-term
changes based on the findings from either study.
“We will continue to study the situation and trends
and collaboratively determine how best to meet our
mission obligations and what are the right resource
requirements moving forward,” he said.
No date has been set for Allen’s report to Congress,
nor to which committee he will report. Allen said he
plans to discuss requirements the service envisions as
being necessary in the coming years in his testimony.
“The two most significant issues identified from this
summer’s operations were the challenges of communications and command and control with our operating
units, as well as the severe limitation of basic support
infrastructure of berthing, food [and other amenities],”
Allen said he did not believe there was an immediate
need to ask Congress for additional funding for an
increased role for the Coast Guard in the Arctic.
“This isn’t an issue of immediate resource needs,
beyond maintaining our current capability. Rather, we
are assessing what we need in the future relative to activity in the Arctic and our mission requirements,” he said.
Brooks said he believes the ongoing Arctic discussion will continue until Allen asks Congress how
much of a commitment the American people want to
have in the region.
“That is going to be the national question that’s
going to need to be answered,” he said.
According to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission,
the United States has jurisdiction over 34,000 square
miles of Arctic territory. The Arctic has lost as much as
50 percent of its polar ice pack in the last 30 years.
Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at the
National Snow and Ice Data Center and an expert on
Arctic issues, said the Coast Guard should make
changes in the region sooner rather than later.
U.S. COAST GUARD
An HH-65C Dolphin helicopter hovers above Petty Officer 1st Class Will Milam, a
rescue swimmer from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, during training in
the Arctic Ocean Aug. 2 as part of the service’s Operation Salliq exercise.
“The Arctic is going to be opened up for business and
the Coast Guard needs to be getting its act together and
getting ready for increased responsibilities [for] potentially more merchant traffic and things like that,” Serreze said.
The service’s work in the region typically is limited
to brief scientific and polar icebreaking missions.
Permanent infrastructure is minimal.
A study conducted by the University of New
Hampshire and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration agrees with the assessment that more
resources eventually will be needed in the region.
“The existing infrastructure for responding to maritime
accidents in the Arctic is limited and more needs to be
done to enhance emergency response capacity as Arctic
sea ice declines and ship traffic in the region increases,”
said the report, “Opening the Arctic Seas,” released Jan. 29.
The Coast Guard maintains a seasonal fleet, based in
Kodiak, Alaska, that uses four HC-130H Hercules
patrol aircraft and four MH-60J Jayhawk, four HH-65C
Dolphin and three HH-60J Jayhawk helicopters for aerial response. Icebreakers, high-endurance cutters and
buoy tenders are used for water response, while the
MH-60Js are used for search and rescue and can be dispersed to Saint Paul Island, Nome, Barrow, Cordova,
Cold Bay and Shemya, depending on the season.
Former President George W. Bush stressed the importance of the region in the waning days of his administration when he signed a new Arctic Policy into law in
January. The policy states six objectives: protect the Arctic
environment and conserve biological resources; meet
national security and homeland security needs; ensure
natural resource management and economic development are environmentally sustainable; strengthen international institutions among the eight Arctic nations; and
involve the Arctic’s indigenous communities in decisions
and enhance scientific monitoring and research.
“The new policy is much more comprehensive and
is reflective of the changing environment up there,”
said Capt. James Fisher, the Coast Guard chief at the
Office of Policy Integration. ■