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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Oct. 26, 2023

Arctic Strategic Outlook Implementation Plan

By CG Strategic Communications

While the U.S. Coast Guard’s mission in the Arctic has endured for more than 150 years, the strategic landscape has changed. Global geopolitical trends combined with dramatic effects of climate change to the Arctic’s physical environment are increasing the region’s economic opportunities and strategic importance while hastening the impacts and risks to U.S. Arctic residents, commercial activity, and U.S. National security. As the region continues to become more accessible and consequential, the demand for Coast Guard leadership and presence will continue to grow.  

In the Arctic, as in many competitive spaces around the world, Homeland Security is National Security. As a member of the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard has a unique role to protect U.S. citizens and promote safety, sovereignty, and stewardship across the globe, including throughout the U.S. Arctic. This includes defending the homeland, responding to the increasing frequency and severity of climate-driven emergencies, and safeguarding the safe and free flow of commerce throughout the Marine Transportation System.  

The Coast Guard’s actions will set the model of behavior for responsible governance and adherence to international laws, rules, norms, and standards. Through these actions, we will also lead by the power of our example to cultivate strong international relationships and a coalition of Arctic partners based on shared interests and values that build climate resiliency, enhance prosperity, and strengthen regional stability.  

Strategic outlook defines the Coast Guard’s long-term strategic planning efforts for specific regions and domains and establish lines-of-effort to achieve the Service’s overarching objectives. The 2019 Arctic Strategic Outlook identified our commitment to advancing our national interests across the Arctic. It directly supports our strategy, complements the Maritime Commerce Strategic Outlook, and aligns with National, DHS, and Department of Defense Arctic strategies and priorities.  

The Arctic Strategic Outlook Implementation Plan provides a description of each initiative, the lead organizations and offices responsible for overseeing implementation, as well as objectives that represent our most critical next steps to advance the Arctic Strategic Outlook. Continuous evaluation and improvement is required for strategic success in the Arctic. Accordingly, this Implementation Plan is scalable to adapt to the dynamic nature of Arctic challenges and to the Coast Guard’s available resources. 

The U.S. Coast Guard will continually evaluate the holistic national security needs in the Arctic and update this Implementation Plan and operations. Given the depth and breadth of the security challenges posed by the Arctic, full execution of this Implementation Plan is contingent upon additional Service-focused and whole-of-government investments in technologies, capabilities, resources, and personnel. 

“As one of eight Arctic nations, the United States seeks an Arctic that is peaceful, stable, prosperous, and cooperative,” said Adm. Steven Poulin, Vice Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard.  “The Coast Guard is a key domestic and international Arctic leader for achieving this vision and promoting security in the region. Our security objectives include the safety, sovereignty, and stewardship of the Arctic, promoting economic prosperity, strengthening climate resiliency, expanding leadership, and asserting international law, rules, and standards across the Arctic. We will continue to prioritize actions that safeguard U.S. sovereignty and interests while promoting safe, secure, and environmentally responsible maritime activity in the Arctic.” 

The U.S. Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to fortify National security in the Arctic through our diverse statutory authorities, mission responsibilities, and collaborative operations across the region. The Service’s versatile authorities and capabilities enable seamless contributions across the diplomatic, information, military, economic, financial, intelligence, and law enforcement spectrums.  

Today’s paradigms must evolve to meet the complex challenges of tomorrow. Addressing our national interests in the Arctic requires a collaborative approach across the joint service as well as other federal, tribal, state, local, and international partners to protect U.S. sovereign territory and rights, improve human safety, and enhance stewardship of the physical environment.  

If the Nation is not vigilant, strategic competitors will outpace us in asserting influence that does not align with the National security interests of the U.S. and our partners. The 2019 Arctic Strategic Outlook and the Arctic Strategic Outlook Implementation Plan reaffirms our commitment in working collaboratively in advancing safe, secure, and responsible activity across the Arctic. Now, more than ever, our operational and strategic presence equals security for the U.S. and our allies and partners who share similar interests. 


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