The Coast Guard will issue a request for proposals to build its new icebreaker this winter, Sen. Angus King said Thursday night after getting back from a three-day trip to Greenland.

"The president put money in his budget this year to start the process of a new icebreaker, but by the time a new icebreaker is built, the current one will be way beyond its current life, so it's a replacement not a new one," King, I-Maine, said at a media availability event at the airport in Maine.

The Coast Guard has two icebreakers: the Healy, which can cut through medium ice and is primarily used for research, and the Polar Star, a refurbished heavy icebreaker to steam through thick, Arctic ice that will need to be retired again by the early 2020s.

While the U.S. has only two icebreakers, King said the Russians have 17-40.

"We just basically have nothing," he said.

President Obama's budget request includes $150 million to begin procurement of a new icebreaker and drum up support among shipbuilders. The Senate Appropriations Committee's defense bill far exceeds that, providing about $1 billion for an icebreaker in fiscal 2017, but that bill has so far been unable to pass the Senate.

Asked if Maine-based shipbuilder Bath Iron Works could bid on the icebreaker project, King said it's "conceivable," but said he didn't know if the company was interested. He also noted that it will take special machinery to build the icebreaker since the steel needs to be much thicker than other ships.

The Cowen Washington Research Group released a report this week that predicted Huntington Ingalls, General Dynamics and possibly others would bid for the icebreaker contract.

Asked about funding for a new icebreaker on Wednesday, Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the lack of U.S. access to the Arctic is "something we have to address," but declined to wade into how to pay for it or how many icebreakers the U.S. needs.