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 role is 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 former Republic of Yugoslavia--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 the 8,000-member Coast Guard Reserve,
the 34,000-strong all-volunteer Coast Guard Auxiliary, and a civilian
workforce of 5,500.
To continue its services to the public, the Coast Guard has set five
strategic goals. Following are brief summaries of each:
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,
utilizing 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.
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 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 1998, the Coast Guard responded to 38,700 calls for assistance--from
recreational boaters in distress to freighters sinking in gale-force
winds. During that same year--on operating expenses of just $346 million--the
service saved more than 4,000 lives and $2.5 billion in property.
Search and rescue (SAR) is perhaps the Coast Guard's best-known mission
area, and the service is recognized as the world's leader by the international
SAR community. When the rescue alarm sounds, the Coast Guard is 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 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 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 regula-tory
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; the risks of major loss of life on passenger vessels; and the
number of collisions and groundings in the waters under Coast Guard jurisdiction.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary provides free boating safety courses and courtesy
marine examinations for recreational boaters.
In a dedicated effort to prevent future mishaps, the Coast Guard investigates
maritime accidents. Prevention of accidents is the first priority, but
when prevention is not possible Coast Guard men and women are there to
respond. As an international leader, the Coast Guard works with other
nations and agencies--like the International Maritime Organization, for
example--to promote higher safety standards for commercial vessels and
For more than 200 years, the Coast Guard has been one of the nation's
armed services. Throughout its distinguished history, the Coast Guard
has enjoyed a unique relationship with the Navy. By statute, the Coast
Guard operates in the joint arena and functions as a specialized service
under the Navy in time of war. It also has command responsibilities for
the U.S. Maritime Defense Zone, countering potential threats to American's
coasts, ports, and inland waterways through numerous port-security, harbor-defense,
and coastal-warfare operations and exercises.
In 1995, the Secretaries of Defense and Transportation signed a memorandum
of agreement that assigned four major national-defense missions to the
Coast Guard in support of the U.S. military commanders-in-chief (CINCs).
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 recent 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 have recently supported NATO operations
in the Baltic Sea. 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 one of the 41
countries throughout the world with similarly sized navies or coast guards
has an older physical plant. To remedy the situation the Coast Guard
has initiated what is called the Deepwater Capabilities Replacement Project.
Instead of proposing a traditional one-for-one asset-replacement program,
the Coast Guard is working with industry to develop a system of systems
in an effort to ensure effective--and cost-effective--interoperability
among all of its Deepwater assets and with the Navy/Marine Corps team.
The eventual Integrated Deepwater System (IDS) will encompass all of
the Coast Guard's major cutters, aircraft, and sensors, providing the
capabilities required to perform all of the Coast Guard's essential deepwater
missions. IDS procurement is designed to achieve maximum operational
effectiveness at minimum total ownership costs.
The IDS will take into account the National Fleet Policy Statement--signed
by the chief of naval operations and the commandant of the Coast Guard--which
makes sound fiscal and operational sense for America by ensuring that
Coast Guard and Navy assets are complementary and not redundant.
The Coast Guard's role as a unique instrument of national policy and
security is becoming even more important in missions outside U.S. coastal
waters. A central focus of the U.S. national-security strategy is to
promote democracy abroad, to build trust and friendship among emerging
democracies, and to promote economic prosperity at home and overseas.
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. Because its mix of assets and missions makes it such a role
model, there is an ever-increasing demand for the Coast Guard to assist
these foreign naval and maritime forces through training and joint operations.
The service's close working relations with other nations not only improve
mutual cooperation during joint operations in which the Coast Guard is
involved but also support U.S. diplomatic efforts in general.
Since 1790, the Coast Guard has served as America's principal and often
only "law of the sea" agency. Originally established by Alexander
Hamilton as the Revenue Cutter Service, the Coast Guard began with the
mission of enforcing import tariffs. Since then, however, its maritime-security
responsibilities have expanded incrementally, and almost always synergistically,
to include the enforcement of all federal laws at sea--from stopping
pirates to enforcing vessel-safety regulations and fisheries conservation
laws to interdicting drug and migrant smugglers. As the only U.S. military
service with law-enforcement authority, the Coast Guard apprehends foreign
fishing vessels engaged in poaching, interdicts overcrowded boats carrying
illegal immigrants, and stops unsafe and inebriated boaters.
Today, U.S. national-security interests can no longer be defined solely
in terms of direct military threats to America and its allies. Working
under the necessarily broader current definition of national security,
the Coast Guard is seeking to reduce the risk from terrorism to U.S.
passengers at foreign and domestic ports and in designated waterfront
facilities, but it faces the extremely difficult challenge of enforcing
increasingly complex laws against highly sophisticated adversaries. Coast
Guard boarding teams deal continuously with violations of multinational
fisheries agreements and foil high-tech attempts to smuggle drugs into
the United States.
The influx of illegal drugs is one of America's foremost current maritime-security
problems. As the nation's leading maritime agency in protecting the U.S.
public from the drug threat, the Coast Guard plays a key role in implementing
the president's national drug-control policy. Despite the vast complications
in enforcement, the Coast Guard performs this new 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 has established
Campaign Steel Web, a multiyear strategy aimed at reducing the flow of
illegal drugs into the United States. In 1999, the Coast Guard interdicted
more than 111,689 pounds of cocaine, keeping more than 505 million cocaine "hits" off
America's streets and out of its schools. The street value of the cocaine
seized, estimated at $3.6 billion, exceeds the Coast Guard's entire operating
budget for 1999. Not incidentally, the Coast Guard seized 28,872 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 now include enforcement of
laws and treaties in the 3.36-million-square-mile U.S. Exclusive Economic
Approximately 110,000 commercial fishing vessels operate from U.S. ports,
netting commercial catches, in an industry worth some $20 billion, that
in the early 1990s came to 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
these added responsibilities the Coast Guard will continue to patrol
the millions of square miles of ocean that make up the 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 area of water.
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 limited resources. The flood
of illegal migrants in overcrowded boats onto America's shores is not
only a threat to human life but also a violation of U.S. and international
laws. Coast Guard migrant-interdiction operations are for that reason
as much humanitarian efforts as they are law-enforcement missions. In
fact, the majority of alien migrant-interdiction cases handled by the
Coast Guard actually begin as search-and-rescue missions, usually on
the high seas rather than in U.S. coastal waters.
Between 1980 and mid-1999, the Coast Guard interdicted more than 292,200
migrants from 44 countries, and it has recently seen a marked increase
in organized alien smuggling ventures, especially from Cuba and the People's
Republic of China.
In its efforts to increase U.S. security against illegal migration,
the Coast Guard constantly monitors maritime transit zones to interdict
illegal migrants, saves lives by rescuing people from sinking vessels,
provides humanitarian assistance to those discovered in poor health,
returns illegal migrants to their home countries, and trains other nations
to play a stronger role in discouraging illegal migration into the United
Prior to establishing the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790, Secretary
of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton sought ways to protect the vital cargoes
carried by the American merchant marine--the foundation of the colonial
economy--and 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.
President George Washington signed the ninth Act of Congress in 1789,
making the Lighthouse Service--another of the several predecessors of
today's Coast Guard--responsible for the establishment and maintenance
of maritime aids to navigation. The importance of this mission might
be illustrated by the example of highways without lanes, in which an
oversized truck might be 60 times larger than the small passenger car
next to it--and where vehicles were free to travel in any direction they
chose, at any speed. These roadways would obviously be much more hazardous
if some drivers had absolutely no training.
Just such a freeway exists on U.S. waterways, however--and 95 percent
of all U.S. commerce travels over it. The U.S. Marine Transportation
System consists of a bewildering and complex mix of waterways, ports,
and intermodal landside connections, which 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
manmade and natural disasters. The Coast Guard also is responsible for
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
A fleet of Coast Guard buoy tenders maintains the "signposts" and "traffic
signals"--more than 50,000 federal aids to navigation, including
buoys, lighthouses, day beacons, and radio-navigation signals--on the
nation's waterways. The Coast Guard is currently reaching full operational
capability for the Differential Global Positioning System network that
will provide boaters and mariners with the most accurate navigation system
Like plowing snow-covered roads, Coast Guard domestic icebreakers keep
shipping lanes open for commercial traffic in winter. In congested harbors,
the Coast Guard coordinates the safe and efficient movement of commercial
vessels through its Vessel Traffic Services system.
With global maritime trade forecasted 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
ply U.S. waters and economic zones, along with new supersized cruise
ships capable of carrying 6,000 or more passengers. Because the potential
for disastrous environmental harm and 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 (and 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 that tasked the Revenue Cutter Service
with protecting government timber from poachers.
The Coast Guard is still protecting the country's valuable natural marine
resources; today, however, the principal dangers are overfishing and
foreign poaching. In the fight to protect the biomass within the U.S.
Exclusive Economic Zone, the Coast Guard is working on numerous fronts--patrolling
the closed fishing grounds off New England, for example, so that depleted
species have an opportunity to return to harvestable levels. In the Gulf
of Mexico, the Coast Guard helps protect endangered sea turtles from
being caught in indiscriminate fishing nets. Through close cooperation
with other federal and foreign agencies, the Coast Guard also is gaining
ground against the use of high-seas driftnets in the Pacific Ocean. And
Coast Guard cutters remain on constant patrol in the Bering Sea to prevent
foreign vessels from poaching in the fish-rich Alaskan waters.
The Coast Guard also 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
on, and is actively working 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, in addition, 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. The
ratio between gallons spilled vs. million gallons of oil shipped has
been significantly reduced, from an annual average of 14 gallons spilled
(for the years 1983 to 1990) to only five gallons during the years 1991
to 1998--a 64 percent decrease.
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
The Coast Guard's website is www.uscg.mil.
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
Located in New London, Conn., approximately halfway between New York
City and Boston, the Coast Guard Academy has an undergraduate enrollment
of 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. Douglas H. Teeson, 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.
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, good scholastic records, 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
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