US Coast Guard to have expanded presence in the Arctic

One of the major issues facing the US as an Arctic nation is a lack of consistent and reliable infrastructure north of the Bering Sea (north of the Aleutian Islands, really). This year, for the first time as presented in their draft programmatic assessment, the US Coast Guard is planning systematic coverage through their Arctic Shield program of the far north with seasonal stations planned for Nome, Kotzebue, and Barrow,  Alaska. Previously in 2012, only Barrow, and in 2013, only Kotzebue had Coast Guard summer presence.

There are also plans to have the icebreaker Healy (operating under NSF research) as well as a national security cutter and buoy tender in the area to respond if needed. Additional communications capabilities are also in the works via an advanced radio facility planned for Barrow.

While there has been a lot of talk of Arctic Strategies in anticipation of increase vessel traffic, these plans are the first real demonstration of action. Coast Guard District 17 is responsible for approximately 44,000 miles of Alaskan coastline, much of it beyond reasonable reach of their Kodiak headquarters – it is refreshing and encouraging that at least someone is finally taking action to better prepare for and react to growing activity in the Arctic.