How the Us Coast Guard Became the Coast Guard

By Ponti, Joseph T. | Sea Classics, May 2011 | Go to article overview

How the Us Coast Guard Became the Coast Guard


Ponti, Joseph T., Sea Classics


Our busiest Naval service is the product of years of amalgamations of independent sea-going services

For almost 200-yrs, the Coast Guard was part of the Treasury Department. On 1 April 1967 it was transferred to the Department of Transportation. On 25 February 2003 another major change took place when the Coast Guard was transferred to the newly created Department of Homeland Security. This most recent shift came in the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001, when many measures were taken to better protect the United States. The US Congress authorized the formation of the Department of Homeland Security and a central element of this major reorganization move was the incorporation of the United States Coast Guard as a major component of the new department.

As far as the US Coast Guard was concerned, it was indeed a revolutionary move, and called for rapid mobilization. Adaptive behavior by all its personnel was essential to carry out a fast and efficient transition. Never more were the core values of the Coast Guard called into play: Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty became the driving force in reshaping the Coast Guard to fit its new mission.

Honor resonates from the basis of absolute integrity captured in the words "We do the right thing because it's the right thing to do at all times." Respect amplifies the dignity and value of the people that are served, and Devotion to Duty heralds the Coast Guard's loyalty and accountability to the public trust that makes possible the dedication to the five elements of the Coast Guard's mission.

The USCG's Mission:

* National Defense

* Maritime Security

* Protection of Natural Resources

* Maritime Safety

* Maritime Mobility

The mission elements are in turn supported by the five major roles and the eleven statutory roles of the US Coast Guard.

Five Major Roles of the USCG

* Maritime Homeland Security

* Maritime Law Enforcement

* Search & Rescue

* Maritime Environmental Protection

* Maintenance of River, International and Offshore Aids to Navigation

Eleven Specific Statutory Roles of the USCG

* Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security

* Counter Drug Law Enforcement

* Migrant Interdiction

* Other Law Enforcement (foreign fisheries)

* Living Marine Resources (domestic fisheries)

* Marine (maritime) Safety

* Marine (maritime) Environmental Protection

* Ice Operations

* Aids to Navigation

* Defense Readiness

* Marine (maritime) Environmental Response

With such a formidable assignment one could readily suspect that somehow the Coast Guard has been over committed and could not possibly deliver quality services when and where they are called for. However, one need only look at the Coast Guard's rich history over the centuries to understand that they certainly could, and would live up to their motto Semper Paratus (Always Prepared) without fail. And yet it begs the question of how one Service could develop the depth, character and flexibility to carry out such an expansive assignment.

To best answer this question calls for delving into the past to see how the Coast Guard's capabilities were shaped, grown, and evolved over the years. Today's Coast Guard is made up of a number of diverse organizations that synergistically contribute to making the whole greater that the sum of its parts. One might draw an analogy to the formation of metals and alloys. Science tells us that the compounding of metals imparts superior characteristics to the end product. Think of what copper would be without tin or zinc, or steel without carbon or molybdenum. The US Coast Guard closely parallels the creation of metallic alloys in that each component added over the years has enhanced strength and flexibility.

On 4 August 1790, the vision of Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton resulted in Congress authorizing the creation of the Revenue Cutter Marine Service (RCMS), America's oldest maritime service. …

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