Vice Adm. Michel testifies at Arctic hearing

Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Vice Adm. Charles Michel testifies alongside retired U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Bob Papp, U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic at the U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Timothy C. Gallaudet, Oceanographer and Navigator at the U.S. Department of Defense. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Vice Adm. Charles Michel testifies alongside retired U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Bob Papp, U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic at the U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Timothy C. Gallaudet, Oceanographer and Navigator of the U.S. Navy. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Vice Commandant Vice Adm. Charles Michel testified on Arctic operations before a joint subcommittee hearing held today that included the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats and the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, both with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

During the hearing, Vice Adm. Michel discussed the Coast Guard’s Arctic Strategy in support of the National Strategy and the service’s international and domestic efforts to ensure safe, secure and environmentally responsible maritime activity in the region.

A map of the Arctic region is displayed at a joint subcommittee hearing with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

A map of the Arctic region is displayed at a joint subcommittee hearing with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Vice Adm. Michel spent a significant amount of his career focused on Arctic and polar issues, including field visits in the Arctic and Antarctic to better understand specific operating challenges in these extreme environments.

“I can personally attest that these regions are remote, hostile and unforgiving,” he shared with the subcommittees. “Distances are vast, weather is a constant factor, ice conditions are very dynamic and infrastructure is almost non-existent.”

”Operations in both polar regions demand detailed and deliberate planning supported by specialized, reliable and unique equipment, and they often demand close coordination with federal, state, local, academic, industry and indigenous community stakeholders,” he added. “The Polar Regions also offer valuable opportunities for international cooperation and interoperability among Arctic nations and others who have shared interests in the region.”

As a visible reminder of the need to forge strong partnerships, Vice Adm. Michel testified alongside representatives of two critical partners in the region: retired Adm. Bob Papp with the U.S. Department of State and Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet with the U. S. Navy.

Throughout the hearing, Vice Adm. Michel outlined key areas of interest for the Coast Guard, including enhancing Arctic operations and exercises, developing the Polar Code, increasing engagement with peer maritime services from Arctic nations and supporting the Arctic Council and the U.S. Chairmanship through the newly formed Arctic Coast Guard Forum.

Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Vice Adm. Charles Michel enters the Rayburn House Office Building shortly before testifying with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Vice Adm. Charles Michel enters the Rayburn House Office Building shortly before testifying with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Vice Adm. Michel concluded his remarks by emphasizing the importance of assured access to the polar regions for the Nation.

“The ability to operate year round, safely and reliably means having heavy icebreakers. Year round access is vital to our Nation’s security and economic interests,” he stated.

“The Coast Guard needs at least two heavy icebreakers to provide year-round, assured access and self-rescue in the polar regions” he added. “The Coast Guard is moving forward at best speed to meet the President’s intent of recapitalizing our icebreaker fleet, and we look forward to working with Congress on this important effort.”

Editor’s note: Vice Adm. Michel’s written testimony and oral testimony are available at the committee’s website. Video of the hearing is also available

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