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Coast Guard Commandant talks Arctic security, Alaska infrastructure

According to the Armed Forces Press Service, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. discussed Arctic security and challenges facing Alaska-based Coast Guard units as activity in the Arctic continues to increase.

Adm. Papp said the Coast Guard's responsibility in Alaska's Arctic will be greater than ever when Shell Oil Co. begins drilling exploratory wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, scheduled for next summer.

For the first time in the Coast Guard's 150-year history in Alaska, he said, responders will need to be stationed on the North Slope, AFP reports:

"We’ll take one of our brand-new national security cutters … as the Shell fleet proceeds up there to start their activities,” the admiral said. That cutter will serve as a movable operations center, with worldwide communications, a two-helicopter flight deck and three boats that can launch boarding teams, Papp said.

“For the last four years, we’ve actually been deploying forces up there on a temporary basis to experiment with our equipment [and] see what works up there,” the commandant said. “We will learn lessons … as drilling starts up there, but right now, I’m pretty confident we’ll be able to cover it.”

Admiral Papp identified two main obstacles to Coast Guard operations in and about the North Slope: The environment and the lack of infrastructure.

He noted that ship-based operations are workable for the short term, but that longer term, infrastructure will be vital.

“I’m going to identify the needs, and I’m going to talk about them,” he declared.

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