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Chapter 7:



The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), sometimes referred to as “America’s Shield of Freedom,” is the nation’s oldest continuous seagoing service. The USCG traces its history to 1790 with the introduction of the Revenue Cutter Service, whose mission was the enforcement of the first Congressional tariff laws enacted under the Constitution. Today’s Coast Guard is actually a combination of five former Federal agencies. In addition to the Cutter Service, these agencies include the Lighthouse Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, the Bureau of Navigation, and the Lifesaving Service.[Footnote 1] The multiple missions and responsibilities of today’s Coast Guard can be traced back to these initial agencies with five strategic goals today—maritime safety, maritime mobility, maritime security, national defense, and protection of natural resources.[Footnote 2]

In March of 2003, USCG jurisdiction changed from the Department of Transportation (DoT) to the Department of Homeland Security. Even though the USCG is not situated in the Department of Defense, it is at all times an armed force—a full-time military organization with a true peacetime mission. During times of war or at the direction of the President, the USCG functionally transfers to the Department of Defense under the Secretary of the Navy. The Coast Guard’s priorities shifted in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks and funding shifted from its traditional mission to support large-scale port security operations.[Footnote 3]

In this chapter, the characteristics of both the Active and Reserve Components of the USCG are presented. Comparisons are presented for applicants (active enlisted only), accessions, and end-strength for enlisted members, officer corps, and warrant officers. Where applicable, comparisons include overall DoD[Footnote 4] figures and comparable civilian data for reference.

[Footnote 1]  URL: [back to paragraph]

[Footnote 2]  Fiscal Year 2002 Coast Guard Report: FY 2001 Performance Report and FY 2003 Budget in Brief. URL: [back to paragraph]

[Footnote 3]  Ibid. [back to paragraph]

[Footnote 4]  Overall DoD refers to the combined total of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. [back to paragraph]

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