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Papp: Coast Guard plans no Arctic shoreside infrastructure

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The Coast Guard has no plans to build shoreside infrastructure in Arctic Alaska, at least not for the next decade, said its commandant, Adm. Robert Papp, while unveiling the service's first strategy for the Arctic on May 21.

"There is a lack of shore infrastructure in the remote reaches of the Arctic, and the expense of building permanent infrastructure and the uncertainty of dynamic and evolving requirements have demanded that the Coast Guard rely on mobile offshore infrastructure to meet demands," Papp said, alluding to last summer, when the service sent ships northward in previously unprecedented numbers for a 4 month deployment. Papp spoke during a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington, D.C.

The service will again send a National Security Cutter to the Arctic this year, Papp said--specifically, the USCGC Waesche.

The strategy (.pdf) itself calls for three main objectives: improving awareness; modernizing governance; and broadening partnerships.

In the "modernizing governance" category is another call by the Coast Guard for the Senate to approve the Convention on the Law of the Sea, a treaty in global effect since 1994 that establishes procedures for the international recognition of national nautical economic zones. Proponents have argued that ratifying the treaty would ensure recognition of an American economic zone extending 600 miles offshore in the Arctic region, a natural-resource area only now increasingly available for exploitation due to global warming.

Embedded within the "improving awareness" category is a promise that the Coast Guard will advocate for establishment of an interagency Arctic fusion center, "pending resources or funding."

The Coast Guard strategy comes after the White House released a national strategy (.pdf) for the Arctic region May 10 and the eight-nation Arctic Council admitted on May 15 China, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Singapore as permanent observers to the council.

National representatives from Arctic states have argued that observer status should be granted to non-Arctic countries. "My argument for opening up for more observers is that we're happy that people want to join us, because when they join our club, they're not starting another club," said Espen Barthe Eide, the Norwegian minister of foreign affairs, during a Jan. 20 meeting of the council.

For more:
- go to a CSIS webpage with an archived webcast of Papp's remarks
- download the Coast Guard Arctic strategy (.pdf)
- download the White House Arctic strategy (.pdf)

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