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Coast Guard: Arctic Strategy Is Underway, but Agency Could Better Assess How its Actions Mitigate Known Arctic Capability Gaps

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[Technical Report, Congressional Report]

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The retreat of polar sea ice in the Arctic, as reported by the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, combined with an expected increase in human activity, has heightened U.S. interests in the Arctic region. To supplement U.S. Arctic policy, the White House and federal agencies have issued Arctic strategies and plans. Since the Arctic region has a substantial maritime domain, the Coast Guard plays a significant role in Arctic policy implementation and enforcement. GAO was asked to examine the Coast Guards responsibilities, capabilities, and plans for the Arctic. This report discusses, among other things, the extent to which the Coast Guard has 1 reported progress in implementing its Arctic strategy, 2 assessed its Arctic capabilities and taken actions to mitigate any identified gaps, and 3 reported being able to carry out polar icebreaking operations. GAO reviewed relevant laws and policies and Coast Guard documents that detail its Arctic plans. GAO conducted a site visit to Alaska and interviewed officials from the Coast Guard, state and local government entities, native village corporations, and private or nonprofit organizations. These observations are not generalizable, but provided insights on Coast Guard activities.

Subject Categories:

  • Meteorology
  • Snow, Ice and Permafrost
  • Geography

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]