who operate heavy icebreakers, and that’s the U.S. and
Russia. They have 25 and we have not built a heavy
one for over 40 years.
They require special steel and construction. We have
been investing in looking at alternatives, different platforms that may be available for us, but we are ultimately
going to need to replace Polar Star at some point.
One other aspect of this is we also have Polar Sea,
that’s been tied up for a few years. We have asked in
the fiscal 2016 budget to do the survey work to do a
cost and time estimate for revitalizing Polar Sea for
another seven to 10 years, and we have to see the
results of that survey and figure out the way we want
to go. The importance of Polar Sea is it could act as a
bridge between Polar Star and new icebreaker, which
would not come into service until the mid-2020s, if it
How long will it take for the Coast Guard to
have a permanent presence in the Arctic?
MICHEL: Right now, we need to be seasonal and
mobile. The beauty in having mobile things is you can
use them for a lot of different things. Establishing permanent infrastructure up there comes with a cost. It
isn’t like the lower 48 states, where you have power, a
place for your people to stay and sewage and a landing
facility. Most of that does not exist up there.
You really have to think long and hard about putting
permanent infrastructure up there. As human activity
increases, we will look into what we need up there.
Partnerships will be big up there. It’s a complicated
Are there any additional resources, such as
unmanned aerial systems (UASs) that would
MICHEL: There is a funding request in the fiscal 2016
budget for a small UAS. For me, a UAS is about optimal
sensor placement. I really want to have long, wide-area
sensors. How we achieve that, through a ship-borne or
land-based system, that’s what we are trying to get at.
UAS is really interesting because it changes very
rapidly and, as an agency that’s budget challenged, we
have to make the right investment. Because once you
commit yourself to a system, you are committed.
We are currently in a partnership with Customs and
Border Patrol to operate their maritime [variant of the]
Guardian, so we work with them, and I think it has
been a successful project. [The UAS] doesn’t have
everything I want out of it, and I want some better sensors. We have not made an investment beyond that
partnership. ScanEagle, we like that, but the sensors
are, again, not everything I would hope for. But there is
a lot out there and they are continually available.
Can the Coast Guard be as successful a
decade from now with additional responsibilities in the Western Hemisphere and the Arctic?
MICHEL: If we don’t have a recapitalized fleet, we are
going to be in a world of hurt. It gives me no comfort to
send our best and brightest out there on ships up to 50
years old. We need to get that fixed. If we don’t get our
recapitalization in order, we will not be able to respond
to the strategic challenges that the commandant has laid
out in the way our taxpayers deserve. ■
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 30 SEAPOWER / JULY/AUGUST 2015
Michel speaks at a press conference at Naval Base San Diego April 16 as the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter
Boutwell and U.S. Navy VADM Kenneth E. Floyd, commander, U.S. Third Fleet, look on. The Boutwell crew returned to
San Diego with more than 28,000 pounds of cocaine, worth more than $424 million, seized in 19 separate interdictions
by U.S. and Canadian forces in drug transit zones near Central and South America.