The U.S. Coast Guard and Department of State are currently chairing an Arctic Council task force to develop a potentially binding search-and-rescue (SAR) agreement among the eight Arctic states. Coast Guard experts have also been members of delegations addressing Antarctic SAR and tourism. These are excellent and appropriate initiatives, given the service's federal responsibilities in maritime SAR and safety in both polar regions. But the timely actions are not enough. The Coast Guard must be more proactive and engaged to ensure that our many polar maritime interests are given proper attention. Importantly, what needs to be accomplished does not need to be directly linked to the justification and acquisition of polar icebreakers.
The following modest plan would energize and enhance the service's key roles in polar affairs.