The deteriorating sea ice coverage in the Arctic presents considerable challenges, but the U.S. Navy is well within its capabilities to execute its 2016 Department of Defense Arctic Strategy, according to a new report to Congress from the Government Accountability Office.
“While much of the Arctic Ocean remains ice-covered for the majority of the year, most scientific estimates predict there will be a continued decrease in sea ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean in the summer sometime in the next 20 to 40 years,” said the report. “According to the Navy’s Arctic Roadmap for 2014 to 2030, while there may be less sea ice there in the future, the ice that remains will continue to be a challenge to those operating in the area.”
The GAO report also found:
- The decreasing coverage of sea ice will result in more open water allowing increased maritime activity along three trans-Arctic routes from 2012 through 2030: the Northern Sea Route, the Northwest Passage, and the Trans-Polar Route. This development could, for example, reduce by thousands of miles and several travel days the shipping route between countries in Asia and North America.
- Increased economic activity in the Arctic could potentially increase the need for military capabilities there to safeguard U.S. interests.
- Arctic resources include an estimated 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered gas, and approximately $1 trillion of minerals including gold, zinc, nickel, and platinum.