With the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe, the ice that covers the Arctic Circle continues to dwindle. Recent estimates suggest that the area will experience ice-free summers by 2030. Until now, the United States has largely avoided the frantic race for control of northern waters. But with the pace of the thaw exceeding expectations, the Navy has launched a strategic plan, the Naval Arctic Roadmap (.pdf), to maximize the U.S. stake in the Arctic.
The plan was written by the newly launched Navy Task Force on Climate Change (TFCC), created last May amid growing concern about the security implications of the planet's rapidly changing environment. It includes a comprehensive, three-phase outline of measures the Navy hopes to undertake in the Arctic region within four years: develop new, resilient vessels and weaponry; map the seabed floor for potential resources and geological information; and innovate diagnostic tools to more accurately predict when the cap will thaw.
In addition to identifying technological gaps, the Roadmap also lays out diplomatic tactics to promote cooperation, while calling for preparedness for potential international discord. The TFCC wants an assessment of Arctic "stakeholders" -- Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland) -- and their political and economic motivations and incentives. The goal of the assessment is to identify potential security threats and to find opportunities for cooperation, using game theory to determine likely courses of action.