Alaska’s congressional delegation is hailing the award of a contract for a new U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker this week as a key development in the nation’s evolving Arctic strategy.

The Department of Defense announced Tuesday that Mississippi-based VT Halter Marine Inc. was awarded a roughly $745.9 million contract for the construction of a Polar Security Cutter. It is one of three ships intended to revitalize the Coast Guard’s fleet of heavy icebreakers, which according to the Pentagon have exhausted their design service life.

“The PSC’s mission will be to ensure continued access to both polar regions and support the country’s economic, commercial, maritime, and national security needs,” DOD officials wrote. “This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to [more than $1.9 billion].”

Word of the contract was relayed by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz to Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan along with Rep. Don Young, according to a statement from all three lawmakers.

“As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have worked tirelessly to fully fund a polar icebreaker fleet and will continue to support the Coast Guard to make a U.S. polar capable fleet a reality,” Murkowski said. “The U.S. cannot stand on the sidelines as other Arctic and non-Arctic nations continue to expand their icebreaker fleets and with it, their Arctic presence.”

“The United States cannot realize the potential of the Arctic—both for our national security and for the people who live there—without the technology necessary to protect our national interests in the far north,” Sullivan said. “Today, the Coast Guard has taken another vital step toward securing our country’s place in this strategically-significant region with a contract award for a new polar security cutter.”

“As a longtime advocate for Arctic domain awareness, I am pleased to see the United States Navy and Coast Guard award this new Polar Security Cutter contract. This award is a major step toward finally recapitalizing our aging Polar Security Cutter fleet,” Young said. “Alaska plays a unique role in our national defense posture, and as interests in the Arctic continue to grow, our Polar Security Cutters will be vital assets for promoting safety and security for those in Alaska, the United States, and our allies across the globe.”

Earlier this month, Murkowski and Sullivan also helped reintroduce two long-sponsored Senate bills linked to the Arctic. The Shipping and Environment Arctic Leadership Act would establish what the two senators call an “Arctic shipping union” to support Arctic shipping with deep-water ports and icebreakers, while the Arctic Policy Act would expand Arctic communities’ representation on the Arctic Research Commission and other bodies related to oversight of the region.

According to the delegation, the Coast Guard has just two icebreakers: the medium icebreaker Healy and the heavy icebreaker Polar Star. The Coast Guard plans to acquire three new medium icebreakers as well as the three heavy icebreakers in the Polar Security Cutter contract.

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