The Coast Guard: America’s Oldest Maritime Defenders

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A Coast Guard 45 foot patrol boat along with a Coast Guard HH-65 helicopter are training off the coast of Alaska. .

The Coast Guard is one of the oldest organizations of the federal government. Established in 1790, the Coast Guard served as the nation's only armed force on the sea until Congress launched the Navy Department eight years later.  Since then, the Coast Guard has protected the United States throughout its long history and served proudly in every one of the nation's conflicts.

The Coast Guard through History

4 August 1790 – President George Washington signs the Tariff Act that authorizes the construction of ten vessels, referred to as "cutters," to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling.  The Revenue Cutter Service expanded in size and responsibilities as the nation grew.

1915 – The Revenue Cutter Service merges with the U.S. Life-Saving Service, and is officially renamed the Coast Guard, making it the only maritime service dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation's maritime laws.

1939 – President Franklin Roosevelt orders the transfer of the Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard, putting it in charge of maritime navigation.

1946 - Congress permanently transfers the Commerce Department's Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation to the Coast Guard, putting merchant marine licensing and merchant vessel safety in its control.

1967 – The Coast Guard is transferred to Department of Transportation.

2003 – The Coast Guard is again transferred, this time to the Department of Homeland Security, where it currently serves.

The Coast Guard Today

The Coast Guard is both a federal law enforcement agency and a military force, and therefore is a faithful protector of the United States in peacetime and war. In times of peace, the Coast Guard operates as part of the Department of Homeland Security, enforcing the nation's laws at sea, protecting the marine environment, guarding the nation's vast coastline and ports, and performing vital life saving missions. In times of war, or at the direction of the President, the Coast Guard serves as part of the Navy Department, defending the nation against terrorism and foreign threats.

2012 Statistics

Responded to 20,510 Search and Rescue cases and saved over 3,800 lives.

Conducted nearly 1,700 security boardings on High Interest Vessels bound for the United States.

Interdicted nearly 2,500 undocumented migrants attempting to illegally enter the United States.

Conducted over 46,000 recreational vessel boardings, issued over 8,000 citations, and visited 1,150 recreational boat manufacturers in conjunction with state efforts to provide education and ensure compliance with federal regulations.

Investigated and responded to over 3,000 pollution incidents.

Removed over 166,000 pounds of cocaine bound toward the U.S. via the Transit Zone.