Lesko Opening Statement at Northern Border Arctic Hearing

WASHINGTON – Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), Transportation and Maritime Security subcommittee ranking member, today delivered an opening statement at a hearing entitled, “The Northern Northern Border: Homeland Security Priorities in the Arctic, Part II”.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I am pleased to see the Subcommittee meeting today to gain additional perspectives on this important topic facing U.S. national security.  Our previous hearing on the Arctic gave the Subcommittee valuable stakeholder perspectives on the homeland security implications of a changing strategic dynamic in the region, and I look forward to hearing today how the U.S. Coast Guard and State Department are responding.

The many international legal, economic, scientific, and security challenges facing the Arctic present a complex set of issues that require close interagency collaboration and a united effort to work with our partners and present strength to our adversaries.  I hope to hear today how the Coast Guard and State Department are working together to advance U.S. interests and what work is being done with our allies and partners.

As we heard from our witnesses at the first hearing on this topic, the Arctic is quickly becoming a region in which commerce comes face-to-face with great power competition.  The United States must work to protect its interest and international norms surrounding freedom of navigation.  For this reason, I am eager to hear from our panel today about what resources are needed to accomplish a diverse and critical mission set and what additional implications for homeland security we can examine.

The Coast Guard is the sole operator of America’s polar capable fleet, thus placing the service at the critical center of maintaining U.S. sovereignty in the Arctic.  However, this reality also requires us to understand the Coast Guard’s limitations related to an aging fleet consisting of a single heavy ice breaker, the Polar Star, which suffers from age-related mechanical issues.  I am pleased that Congress has finally funded a new Polar Security Cutter and has begun funding for preparation of another; however, it is incumbent upon us to continue advocating for the resources and infrastructure needed by our men and women in uniform.  As we ask more and more of the Coast Guard in the Arctic, we should be steadfast in our commitment to the service and its needs.

The homeland security implications of a changing Arctic dynamic present both challenges and opportunities for the United States, and I am glad that the Subcommittee is ensuring that we are part of the conversation.  Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.   

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