Coast Guard Looking North
The Arctic has become a hotbed of interest in recent years. The Coast Guard has recognized this trend and is pursuing more presence in the region, but will its resources be able to keep up with rapidly increasing traffic?
Rear Admiral Thomas P. Ostebo, commander of the 17th District of the U.S. Coast Guard, recently testified before Congress during a field hearing about Arctic issues and the sea service’s exercise “Arctic Shield 2012.”
Ostebo explained the purpose of the exercise, the lessons learned, and what new assets and capabilities they brought to the region. While the exercise is considered a success, the Coast Guard requires more resources to make these capabilities a reality.
Notably at Arctic Shield, the Coast Guard stationed two helicopters in Barrow, Alaska (the northernmost point in the U.S.), to afford the sea service increased presence, situational awareness, and reach within the Arctic Circle. The USCGC Bertholf, the first-in-class of the National Security Cutter (NSC) fleet, also deployed to the region, marking an important milestone for a cutter class intended to provide increased range and presence farther from the coast.
Both of these firsts indicate that the Coast Guard is aware of growing interests in the Arctic for natural resources such as hydrocarbons and fisheries, expanding sea lanes, and tourism. In spite of Arctic Shield’s success, the Coast Guard may have trouble keeping up with real-world increased traffic in northern U.S. waters while executing its various other missions.