The United States Coast Guard is a military, multimission, maritime service within the Department of Transportation and one of the nation's five armed services. Its core roles are to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic and security interests in any maritime region in which those interests may be at risk, including international waters and America's coasts, ports, and inland waterways. The Coast Guard provides unique benefits to the nation because of its distinctive blend of military, humanitarian, and civilian law-enforcement capabilities.
Beginning with a military skirmish with France in 1798 and continuing to recent operations in the Middle East--and including every war in between--the Coast Guard has helped defend the nation in combat. Today, Team Coast Guard stands ready with an active-duty force of 35,000 men and women, augmented by 8,000 Coast Guard Reservists, 34,000 volunteers in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and a civilian workforce of 5,500.
To improve its services to the public, the Coast Guard has set strategic goals for each of its five key mission areas. Following are brief summaries of each:
Maritime Safety: Eliminate deaths, injuries, and property damage associated with maritime transportation, fishing, and recreational boating.
National Defense: Defend the nation as one of the five U.S. armed services. Enhance regional stability in support of the National Security Strategy, using the Coast Guard's unique and relevant maritime capabilities.
Maritime Security: Protect America's maritime borders from all intrusions by: (a) halting the flow of illegal drugs, aliens, and contraband into the United States through maritime routes; (b) preventing illegal fishing; and (c) suppressing violations of federal law in the maritime arena.
Maritime Mobility: Facilitate maritime commerce and eliminate interruptions and impediments to the efficient and economical movement of goods and people, while maximizing recreational access to and enjoyment of the water.
Protection of Natural Resources: Eliminate environmental damage and the degradation of natural resources associated with maritime transportation, fishing, and recreational boating.
These strategic goals are used for tracking program performance and making sound resource decisions. They also offer a blueprint for thinking broadly about the Coast Guard's ability to influence future national security issues positively and to meet the needs of a seafaring nation. Following is a more detailed explication of the programs and policies related to the achievement of the service's strategic goals.
The Coast Guard's motto is Semper Paratus (Always Ready), and the service is always ready to respond to calls for help at sea. The Coast Guard answers every one of those calls.
In 2000, the Coast Guard responded to 40,264 calls for assistance--from a broad spectrum of the public ranging from recreational boaters in distress to the captains of freighters sinking in gale-force winds. During that same year--on a share of its operating expenses totaling $342 million--the service saved more than 3,400 lives and more than $80 million in property.
Search and rescue (SAR) is perhaps the Coast Guard's best-known mission area; the service is recognized by the international SAR community as the world's leader. When the rescue alarm sounds, Coast Guard personnel are ready to confront the inherently dangerous maritime environment, frequently going into harm's way to save others.
The Coast Guard works closely with other federal, state, and local agencies, and with foreign nations, to provide the world's fastest and most effective response to distress calls. It also maintains a vessel-tracking system called AMVER (automated mutual assistance vessel rescue) that allows it to divert nearby commercial vessels to render assistance when necessary.
During the past decade, the number of American lives lost each year in boating accidents and on commercial vessels has declined significantly. The Coast Guard's Marine Safety Program promotes safety through both its regulatory and inspection roles, inspecting merchant vessels and licensing their masters and crews. The Coast Guard has established a goal of achieving a 20 percent reduction in: crewmember deaths and injuries on U.S. commercial vessels; passenger deaths and injuries; and the number of collisions and groundings in the waters under Coast Guard jurisdiction. The Coast Guard Auxiliary provides free boating safety courses, courtesy marine examinations for recreational boaters, aids-to-navigation verification, and inspections of commercial facilities.
As part of its dedicated effort to prevent future mishaps, the Coast Guard investigates maritime accidents. The lessons learned from accident investigations are fed back into prevention programs, frequently in the form of revised regulations and safety standards. As an international leader in this field, the Coast Guard works with other nations and agencies--the International Maritime Organization, for example--to promote higher safety standards for commercial vessels and their crews.
The Coast Guard is an armed force capable of operating in the joint arena at any time and functioning as a specialized service under the Navy in time of war or when directed by the president. It also has been assigned command responsibilities for the U.S. Maritime Defense Zone, countering potential threats to American coasts, ports, and inland waterways through numerous port-security, harbor-defense, and coastal-warfare operations and exercises.
Today, U.S. national security interests can no longer be defined solely in terms of direct military threats to America and its allies. The terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 tragically underscored the threat faced on the home front from highly sophisticated and covert adversarial groups. The Coast Guard has assumed one of the lead roles in responding to these unscrupulous attacks upon the United States by providing homeland security in the nation's harbors and ports, and along the U.S. coastlines. Commercial, tanker, passenger, and merchant vessels all have been subject to increased security measures enforced by the Coast Guard.
In the period immediately following the destruction of the World Trade Center towers and the attack on the Pentagon, over 2,600 Coast Guard Reservists were recalled to provide operational and administrative support. Reservists and active-duty Coast Guard members worked in unison to provide additional manpower for the clean-up efforts in New York City and to enhance port security--by, among other things, the establishment of a "sea marshals" program--in the ports of Seattle, Los Angeles, New York City, and Boston. As the nation redefines national security and government leaders organize the Homeland Security Council, the Coast Guard will continue its efforts to reduce the risk from terrorism to commercial and passenger vessels traversing U.S. waterways and designated waterfront facilities.
The Coast Guard's national-defense role to support U.S. military commanders-in-chiefs (CINCs) is explicitly outlined in a memorandum of agreement signed by the Secretaries of Defense and Transportation in 1995. Four major national-defense missions were assigned to the Coast Guard. These missions--maritime-intercept operations, deployed port operations/security and defense, peacetime engagement, and environmental-defense operations--are essential military tasks assigned to the Coast Guard as a component of joint and combined forces in peacetime, crisis, and war.
In past years the nation's CINCs have requested--and have been provided--Coast Guard cutters to conduct maritime-intercept operations, carry out peacetime-engagement missions, and perform other essential warfare tasks for all three forward-deployed Navy fleets: the Fifth Fleet in the Arabian Gulf/Middle East; the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean; and the Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific. In addition, Coast Guard cutters supported NATO operations during the Kosovo crisis. However, the Coast Guard deepwater fleet is aging and in urgent need of replacement.
The U.S. Coast Guard's physical assets (cutters, aircraft, and shore facilities) have been undercapitalized for years. Only two of the 39 countries throughout the world with similarly sized navies or coast guards have older physical plants. To remedy this situation the Coast Guard initiated the Deepwater Capability Replacement Project. Instead of proposing a traditional one-for-one asset-replacement program, the Coast Guard contracted with three prime contractors in industry to develop a system of systems in an effort to ensure both efficient and cost-effective interoperability among all of its Deepwater assets (and those assets maintained by the U.S. Navy). This will ensure that Coast Guard and Navy assets are complementary and not redundant. The Integrated Deepwater System (IDS) will encompass all of the Coast Guard's major cutters, aircraft, and sensors, and will provide the capabilities required to perform all of the Coast Guard's essential deepwater missions to achieve maximum effectiveness at minimum total ownership costs.
Outside U.S. coastal waters, the Coast Guard assists foreign naval and maritime forces through training and joint operations. Many of the world's maritime nations have forces that operate principally in the littoral seas and conduct missions that resemble those of the Coast Guard. And, because it has such a varied mix of assets and missions, the Coast Guard is a powerful role model that is in ever-increasing demand abroad. The service's close working relations with these nations not only improve mutual cooperation during specific joint operations in which the Coast Guard is involved but also support U.S. diplomatic efforts in general: promoting democracy, economic prosperity, and trust between nations.
Since 1790, the Coast Guard has served as America's principal "law of the sea" agency. Originally established by Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue Marine, the Coast Guard began with the mission of enforcing import tariffs. Since then its maritime-security responsibilities have expanded exponentially, and almost always synergistically, to include the enforcement of all federal laws related to the sea--from stopping pirates to enforcing vessel-safety regulations and fisheries-conservation laws to interdicting drug and migrant smugglers. Because the Coast Guard has law-enforcement authority, it can apprehend foreign fishing vessels engaged in poaching, interdict vessels carrying illegal drugs and undocumented migrants, and stop unsafe boaters.
The influx of illegal drugs is another one of America's foremost maritime-security problems. As the nation's leading maritime agency in protecting the U.S. public from the illegal drug threat, the Coast Guard plays a key role in implementing the president's national drug-control strategy. Despite vast complications in enforcement, the Coast Guard has been performing this task with only modest additional funding. A tremendous number of assets are required to patrol the long coastlines of the United States and the even greater expanse of waters encompassing the maritime "transit zones" used by drug smugglers. This six-million-square-mile area, roughly the size of the continental United States itself, includes the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Eastern Pacific.
To carry out its drug-interdiction mission the Coast Guard established Operation Steel Web, a multiyear strategy aimed at reducing the flow of illegal drugs into the United States. In fiscal year 2001, the Coast Guard interdicted more than 135,000 pounds of cocaine, setting a maritime cocaine seizure record for the third consecutive year. This success is largely due to improved intelligence collection, analysis, application, and coordination and cooperation with other government agencies and international partners. The street value of the cocaine seized, estimated at $4.4 billion, exceeds the Coast Guard's entire operating budget for the year. Not incidentally, the Coast Guard seized 32,000 pounds of marijuana during the same period.
The protection of U.S. living marine resources--primarily through the detection and deterrence of illegal fishing activity--is another of the Coast Guard's historic mission areas of responsibility that continues to expand. Beginning with the protection of the Bering Sea fur seal and sea otter herds and continuing through the vast expansion following World War II in the size and efficiency of global fishing fleets, Coast Guard responsibilities in this mission area have expanded significantly and now include enforcement of laws and treaties in the almost 3.34-million-square-mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the largest in the world.
Approximately 110,000 commercial fishing vessels operate from U.S. ports in an industry worth some $25 billion, netting commercial catches that in the early 1990s totaled almost 4.7 million metric tons per year. The United States can anticipate increased enforcement responsibilities in this field as the world's fish stocks decline and more pressure is put on the Coast Guard to protect U.S. fisheries resources. To carry out its added responsibilities, the Coast Guard will continue to patrol the millions of square miles of ocean that make up the U.S. EEZ and the high seas. This is a daunting challenge for an agency with a finite number of assets available for the patrol of such a vast maritime area.
The world's population is anticipated to increase in the next two decades by nearly two billion people. Ethnic and sectarian strife will likely continue to fuel sudden and uncontrolled migrations of large numbers of people, putting increased demands on the world's limited resources. The flood onto America's shores of undocumented migrants in overcrowded boats is both a threat to human life and a violation of U.S. and international laws. Coast Guard migrant-interdiction operations are as much humanitarian efforts as they are law-enforcement missions. In fact, most migrant-interdiction cases handled by the service actually begin as search-and-rescue missions, usually on the high seas rather than in U.S. coastal waters.
The Coast Guard is the lead agency for the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws at sea, stressing sensitivity in dealing with undocumented migrants in all realms: mass migrations, asylum/refugee requests, smuggling, and repatriation. Since 1980, the Coast Guard has interdicted an estimated 305,000 migrants from 62 countries. Today, alien-smuggling ventures facilitate most of these undocumented persons. In its effort to increase U.S. security against undocumented migrations, the Coast Guard constantly monitors maritime transit zones, interdicting undocumented migrants, rescuing people from sinking or unsafe vessels, providing humanitarian assistance, and training other nations to discourage undocumented migration into the United States.
Prior to establishing the Revenue Marine in 1790, Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton sought ways to protect the vital cargoes carried by the American merchant marine--the foundation of the colonial economy--and to collect the taxes generated by those cargoes. As a preventive measure, he proposed the creation of a federal agency (the Revenue Cutter Service) to protect American shipping from the wide range of coastal hazards, including rocks and shoals, threatening ships at sea.
In 1789 the Lighthouse Service--another of the several predecessors of today's Coast Guard--was created by Congress. The Lighthouse Service was one of the first federal steps into the world of maritime transportation risk management. Today, the U.S. Marine Transportation System consists of a complex mix of waterways, ports, and intermodal landside connections that collectively allow the nation's various modes and types of transportation to move people and goods to, from, and on the water.
As the nation's lead agency for waterways management, port safety and security, and vessel safety inspection and certification, the Coast Guard maintains a continuous and clear focus not only on the prevention of marine accidents, but also on the response measures needed to cope with man-made as well as natural disasters. The service also is responsible for maintaining and patrolling the safe and efficient navigable waterways system needed to support domestic commerce, facilitate international trade, and ensure the continued availability of the military sealift fleet required for national defense. Operating the domestic icebreakers that keep shipping lanes open for commercial traffic in winter and managing the Vessel Traffic Services system that coordinates the safe and efficient movement of commercial vessels through congested harbors are two examples of how the Coast Guard maintains the waterways.
The Coast Guard also maintains the "signposts" and "traffic signals" on the nation's navigable waterways--more than 50,000 federal aids to navigation, including buoys, lighthouses, day beacons, and radio-navigation signals. These navigation aids provide a critical component of the overall navigational picture needed by all mariners. The Coast Guard's maritime Differential Global Positioning System network is fully operational and provides boaters and mariners with the most accurate electronic maritime navigation system ever available.
With global maritime trade forecast to double and perhaps triple in the next two decades, larger numbers of ultra-large, deep-draft, and minimally crewed ships--many of them carrying hazardous cargoes--will be plying U.S. waters and economic zones, along with new super-sized cruise ships capable of carrying 6,000 or more passengers. Because the potential for disastrous environmental harm and/or loss of life from even a single incident will continue to grow exponentially, the Coast Guard is working on even more effective systems for preventing--or rapidly responding to--marine accidents.
Protection of Natural Resources
The Coast Guard's role in environmental protection dates back more than 175 years to the 1822 Timber Act, which tasked the Revenue Cutter Service with protecting government timber from poachers.
The Coast Guard is still protecting the nation's valuable natural marine resources. Today, however, the principal dangers are poaching and overfishing. In the fight to protect the biomass within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, the Coast Guard is working on numerous fronts--e.g., patrolling the closed fishing grounds off New England so that depleted species have an opportunity to return to harvestable levels. Through close cooperation with other federal and foreign agencies, the Coast Guard also is gaining ground against the illegal use of high-seas driftnets in the Pacific Ocean. Coast Guard cutters remain on constant patrol in the Bering Sea to prevent foreign vessels from poaching in the rich fishing waters off Alaska.
The Coast Guard also is playing an increasingly important role in the nation's efforts to protect its threatened and endangered species. In the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard helps protect endangered sea turtles from being caught in indiscriminate fishing nets. Along the Atlantic Coast, Coast Guard units help free endangered northern right whales that have become entangled in fishing gear. In Hawaii, Coast Guard buoy tenders remove tons of marine debris from the coral reef habitat of the Hawaiian monk seal. From patrolling Steller sea lion rookeries in Alaska to enforcing manatee speed zones in Florida, the Coast Guard plays a vital role in helping the nation recover and maintain healthy populations of marine protected species.
The Coast Guard has pioneered the fight against water pollution. Its Research and Development Center developed a technique to "fingerprint" oil to identify the source of a spill. Today, the Coast Guard's National Strike Teams are on call 24 hours a day to respond to accidents and spills in the marine environment. The service also enforces federal regulations to reduce the dumping of refuse and sewage from vessels of all types.
Through a public education program called Sea Partners, the Coast Guard is promoting the importance of a clean marine environment and is working closely with foreign nations and international agencies to reduce the number of marine accidents (and resulting spills) by establishing and rigorously enforcing improved safety standards for commercial vessels and their crews. The results of these efforts have been demonstrably successful. An 80 percent decrease has been realized, from an annual average of 6.7 gallons spilled per million gallons shipped for the year 1996 to only 1.2 gallons spilled per million gallons shipped during the year 2000.
To reach the longer-term goal of virtually eliminating environmental damage to U.S. waterways, the Coast Guard pursues an aggressive three-pronged approach encompassing prevention, enforcement, and response. The service has partnered with the maritime industry to develop new safety standards for commercial vessels and their crews, and enforces those standards through rigorous testing and thorough investigations into marine accidents and spills.
The Coast Guard's website is www.uscg.mil.
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
Located in New London, Connecticut, approximately halfway between New York City and Boston, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy has an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 850 men and women. Selection to the Coast Guard Academy is based on an annual nationwide competition, a process unique among the
service academies. There are no congressional appointments to the academy, and geographical quotas do not play a part in admissions decisions. The superintendent is Rear Adm. Robert C. Olsen, USCG.
Degrees and majors: Cadets may choose from eight major fields of study: electrical, civil, mechanical, and marine engineering and naval architecture; government; management; marine and environmental science; and operations research. Each graduate receives a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Costs: To defray the cost of uniforms and educational equipment, a $3,000 deposit is required upon entrance; $300 of this sum is required at the time a cadet accepts a full appointment. The remainder is due by 15 June.
Financial Aid: Each cadet receives about $600 per month for uniforms, equipment, textbooks, and other training expenses.
Admissions: Eligibility requirements include satisfactory SAT or ACT scores, a satisfactory scholastic record, and demonstrated leadership potential. Each candidate must pass a medical examination before acceptance. New classes begin in July of each year.
Application Information: Applications, which are due by 15 December, are available online at http://www.cga.edu or by contacting:
Director of Admissions
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
31 Mohegan Avenue
New London, CT 06320-8103 or by calling: (860) 444-8501 or (800) 883-8724
Leadership Development Center
In 1998, the Coast Guard Academy created this educational center of excellence for the entire Coast Guard--military and civilian, officer and enlisted. The LDC consolidates into a single, rich learning environment several prominent Coast Guard schools from around the country, including Officer Candidate School, Chief Warrant Officer Indoctrination School, Chief Petty Officer Academy, Command and Operations School, Officer-in-Charge School, Key Civilian Orientation Program, and the Leadership and Quality Institute.