While the Coast Guard’s organizational positioning is unique—part of one cabinet level department during peace (Transportation[Footnote 12]) and another during war or under Presidential direction (Defense)—its contributions to national defense have been significant over the years since the USCG’s creation. The USCG represents the oldest continuous seagoing service in this country and has fought in almost every war since implementation of the U.S. Constitution to include battles with pirates, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Seminole Indian uprising, the Spanish-American War, both world wars, Korea, Vietnam[Footnote 13], and the Persian Gulf War, where the USCG was the only Armed Force with the ship search capabilities necessary to make the embargo of seagoing goods a success.
On a daily basis numerous Coast Guard personnel are protecting our nation’s ports, shores, and waters. On a daily average the Coast Guard: responds to 20 oil and hazardous chemical spills, conducts almost 20 maritime security boardings, seizes illegal drugs worth approximately 10 million dollars, conducts about 110 search and rescue cases, assists nearly 200 people in distress, saves 10 lives, and protects nearly three million dollars worth of property within more than 3.4 million square miles of Exclusive Economic Zones.[Footnote 14]
The Coast Guard has always held a key role in ensuring our nation’s maritime homeland security. However, the pace of security activities in and around our ports has increased tremendously since September 11th. Operation Noble Eagle, launched after the attacks of September 11, 2001, is the Coast Guard’s largest homeland port security operation since World War II.[Footnote 15] With such varied missions, roles, and responsibilities, the U.S. Coast Guard truly is a full-time military organization with a genuine peacetime mission.
[Footnote 12] The USCG becomes an agency under the Department of Homeland Security during FY 2003. [back to paragraph]
[Footnote 13] Scheina, R. The Coast Guard at War. URL: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/history/h_CGatwar.html. [back to paragraph]
[Footnote 14] U.S. Coast Guard Average Day Factoids. URL: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/comrel/factfile/Factcards/ AvgDay.html. [back to paragraph]
[Footnote 15] U.S. Coast Guard Homeland Security and the New Normalcy. URL: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/comrel/ factfile/Factcards/Homeland.htm. [back to paragraph]