"We're not doing OK," said Lt. Cmdr. Nahshon Almandmoss "We definitely don't have the infrastructure available to operate for an extended period of time in the Arctic in the summer, much less in the winter when it's more critical for logistical purposes."
In a report last September, the Government Accountability Office said the Coast Guard lacks adequate infrastructure or equipment in the Arctic.
"With 20 percent of the yet-to-be-discovered oil, gas and minerals remaining in the world in the Arctic, the U.S. can't risk losing it," said Rear Adm. Christopher C. Colvin, commander of Alaska's 17th Coast Guard District, from Anchorage.
The Arctic nations - Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States - have been preparing to claim larger chunks of territory under a clause in the treaty that governs the world's waters. Non-Arctic nations like China and South Korea also have been eyeing the economic potential in the far north. The only international treaty that applies to the Arctic is the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, ratified by more than 150 nations. But although it helped draft the convention and subsequent revisions, the United States has not ratified the treaty; conservatives say it impinges on U.S. national sovereignty. Under the treaty, a nation that can prove its continental shelf extends past the current boundary of 200 miles off its coastline can be granted up to 150 additional miles of seabed. Like other Arctic countries, the United States is gathering scientific evidence for its claim to an extended continental shelf in the Arctic. Russia has been preparing a territory claim that would absorb nearly half of the Arctic into its possession
"An extra 150 miles of shelf can be billions or trillions of dollars in resources," said Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, commander of Alaskan Command, Joint Task Force Alaska, Alaskan North American Defense Region and the 11th Air Force.
In 2007, Russia planted a flag in the waters below the North Pole. Canada planted one nearby soon after. Denmark placed its flag on the north's contested Han Island (which Canada promptly removed and delivered back to Danish officials.) America and Canada cooperated on scientific and military operations last summer. Canada bought fleets of F-35 fighter jets and is building a new base along its Arctic coast. Russia is building new icebreakers and new nuclear-power stations on its north coast.
Nations are taking steps to position themselves.