SAR is one of the Coast Guard's oldest missions. Rescuing those in peril at sea has been a priority over all other Coast Guard peacetime missions. The Coast Guard keeps a nationwide system of boats, aircraft, cutters and rescue coordination centers on 24 hours alert, ready to respond to vessels in distress. The program objective is to minimize loss of life, personal injury, and property damage on the high seas and in all United States waters.
The aids to navigation (ATON) program operates long-range electronic radio navigation aids worldwide, as well as domestic radio beacons. The Coast Guard also maintains more than 50,000 short-range ATON (lighthouses, fog signals, buoys, day marks and radar beacons) as well as operates the vessel traffic services (VTS). The ATON program's objectives are to develop, establish, maintain, repair, and operate audible, visible, and radar ATON that help navigators determine their position or safe course and warn of obstructions in or adjacent to navigable waters; to establish, operate, maintain, and repair electronics aids throughout the United States and in other areas of the world in order to provide continuous, accurate, all-weather positioning capability for military and civilian mariners and aviators. The global positioning system (GPS) is a satellite-based radio navigation system developed and operated by the U.S. Department of Defense. GPS permits land, sea and airborne users to determine their three-dimensional position, velocity, and time 24 hours a day, in all weather, anywhere in the world with an accuracy of 100 meters or better. The Coast Guard has improved this accuracy to three meters or better with the development of differential GPS (DGPS). This differential system receives GPS signals from the satellites, corrects the error, and rebroadcasts a corrected signal for use by all navigators with DGPS compatible receivers.
Enforcement of laws and treaties became the first mission of what would evolve into the Coast Guard when in 1790 Alexander Hamilton formed a "fleet of cutters" to suppress smuggling. Today, drug interdiction has made enforcing laws and treaties one of the Coast Guard's most visible missions. The MLE program objectives are: to enforce federal law on the high seas and in U.S. waters; to interdict drug smugglers and illegal migrants; to enforce exclusive economic zone laws and regulations up to 200 nautical miles offshore; to inspect domestic and foreign fishing vessels to ensure compliance with U.S. law; and to help other agencies enforce our nation's laws.
The MEP program has two major mission areas:
Marine environmental response: To minimize damage caused by pollutants released in the coastal zone. To overcome or reduce threats tot he marine environment posed by potential spills of oil or hazardous substances. To assist in national and international pollution response planning. Every effort is made to recover costs following a federal response.
Port safety and security: To safeguard the nation's ports, waterways, waterfront facilities, vessels, personnel, and property from accidental or intentional damage, disruption, destruction, or injury. To monitor transfer and hazardous cargo operations to prevent spills. To conduct harbor patrols to detect oil or chemical spills, and to enforce pollution regulations.