As usual, the U.S. Coast Guard is finding itself at the bottom of the military services in terms of funding priorities.

As noted by the service’s commander, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft, the Coast Guard is requesting an additional $2 billion in unfunded priorities at a time when it is vital to overall national security objectives.

As reported by National Defense magazine:

Acquisition needs for fiscal year 2018 that didn’t make it into the president’s budget request included: $750 million in additional funding to support construction of a new heavy icebreaker; $125 million for the ninth national security cutter; $100 million for two fast response cutters; $400 million for four HC-130J aircraft; $70 million for long range command-and-control aircraft; and $5 million for land-based unmanned aerial systems.

Of the $2 billion worth of unfunded requests, the vast majority — $1.55 billion — goes to enhancing operational capability; the rest to fund needed infrastructure upgrades.

“We’re the only military service that finds itself in our operating expense in the basement of the Budget Control Act,” Zukunft said. “My other service chief counterparts — they lament the day they ever see the [BCA] floor. And as I’m sitting in the basement looking up at the floor, I’m here to say the view from the basement is not that pretty.”

Why it’s on our radar: Of particular concern in the Coast Guard’s unfunded priorities request is the money needed to build another heavy icebreaker. Unbeknownst to most Americans, the Russians — who have a fleet of 40 icebreakers compared to two in the U.S. — are preparing to dominate the Arctic and lay claim to its vast supply of natural resources (think oil and gas, primarily). In order to tap those resources, you have to be able to reach them, hence the large icebreaker fleet. And while the U.S. Coast Guard is begging for money to build one, the Russians are building several, including a new class of nuclear-powered icebreakers. 

The race to tap Arctic resources — which have tremendous strategic value — is on, and already the U.S. is lagging far behind a peer competitor.