On January 30, 2014, the White House released the Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for the Arctic Region. The purpose of the Implementation Plan is to put flesh on the bones of the May 10, 2013 National Strategy for the Arctic Region. The National Strategy had identified three lines of effort to address challenges posed by the changing Arctic environment. The Implementation Plan sets forth the methodology, process, and approach for executing the Strategy. Most importantly, though, the Implementation Plan assigns lead agencies and supporting agencies for each of 36 identified taskings. For each tasking, there are defined objectives, next steps (with specific timelines), and methodologies for measuring progress toward completion of the task.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the nonpartisan think-tank for the Legislative Branch, has written four reports on Changes in the Arctic and consequent issues confronting the Congress. The most recent report noted that the United States is an Arctic nation and has substantial economic, security and environmental interests in the region. Of the five Arctic coastal nations, four are in the process of preparing Arctic territorial claims for submission to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The United States is not currently preparing such a claim because only it has not acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The Russian Federation has a substantial fleet of polar icebreakers and carries out extensive activities in the polar region, including regular voyages to the geographic North Pole. The United States has one operational polar icebreaker, the USCGC Polar Star, and that icebreaker has exceeded its intended 30-year service life. Another vessel, USCGC Healy, is considered a medium icebreaker. While it has less icebreaking capability than Polar Star, Healy has extensive scientific research assets, also important for completion of the Implementation Plan.