Historic U. S. Coast Guard Documents and Those of Its Predecessor Services

Historic Documents & Publications

A Master Index of Primary Sources of Coast Guard History, Including Historic Documents, Manuals, Reports, Regulations & Other Official Publications Available on the Historian's Office Website (primarily PDF files)

A page from the logbook of a Revenue cutter



  • 1790: 1790 Tariff Act, signed by President George Washington on 4 August 1790, that authorized the first 10 cutters.
  • 1799: A report on the nation's lighthouses, dated 18 October 1799.  Signed by William Miller, Esquire, Commissioner of the Revenue, & Benjamin Lincoln, Superintendent of Lighthouses and Buoys.  PDF copy provided by Candace Clifford (original on file in the National Archives and Records Administration).

1800-1899:

  • 1816: Captain Winslow Lewis's 1816 report of his visit to every lighthouse in the country.  He reported to the Commissioner of Revenue on every keepers' annual salary and noted if such salary was appropriate depending upon the location of the light.  (Copy provided by Ms. Candace Clifford.)
  • 1819: Circular from the Treasury Department to the Commanding Officers of the Revenue Cutters "For your government in performing the duties of your station."
  • 1843: Register of Officers & Cutters: The Washington Directory, and Governmental Register for 1843 compiled and published by Anthony Reintzel: "Officers of the Revenue Service [Corrected at the Treasury Department to August 14, 1843] (including) Names and Stations of Revenue Cutters."  Washington, D.C.: Jno. T. Towers, 1843.  [Publication located at the Kiplinger Library, Washington, D.C. Historical Society].
  • 1889: Organization and Methods of the United States Life-Saving Service, (a paper "read before the Committee on Life-Saving Systems and Devices, International Marine Conference, November 22, 1889" by Sumner I. Kimball, General Superintendent of the Service, and published on 5 January 1894 "for the information of officers and employees of the Service and others interested." Washington: GPO, 1894).
  • 1895: General Orders: U.S. Revenue Cutter Service.  July, 1895. (Treasury Department, Document No. 2020.  Office of Secretary.  Division of Revenue Cutter Service.  General orders modifying the 1894 regulations regarding enlistments, discharges, and the proper way to fly the Revenue Ensign).

1900-1945:

  • 1902: "Care of [Lighthouse] Lights and Their Appurtenances," Chapter III, excerpted from Instructions to Light-Keepers and Masters of Light-House Vessels 1902 Instructions to Lighthouse Keepers, U.S. Lighthouse Establishment: by Authority of the Light-House Board (Washington: GPO, 1902)
  • 1915: U.S. Coast Guard Seal Design, approved 30 January 1915.
  • 1916: U. S. Coast Guard Regulations, 1916 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1916; the first set of regulations written after the merger of the Life-Saving Service with the Revenue Cutter Service.)
  • 1916: The official letter that led to the creation of Coast Guard aviation.  Written by CGC Onondaga's commanding officer, Captain Benjamin Chiswell, on 18 April 1916 to the Chief Constructor of the Coast Guard, asking for plans for a flying lifeboat.
  • 1921: General Orders 77 and 90 modifying the established ratings for enlisted personnel and the warrant officer grade of the Coast Guard first promulgated by General Order 43 (1920).

  • 1930: Regulations Governing the Uniforms For Commissioned and Warrant Officers And Enlisted Men of the United States Coast Guard, 1930 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1930); includes amendments & changes up to February, 1941.
  • 1933: Memorandum, "Proposed New Construction and Reconditioning Projects for the Coast Guard . . .[under the] National Industrial Recovery Act," 8 August 1933 (includes information on the duties and functions of the Coast Guard from 1918-1932, the proposed building program to replace the aging Coast Guard's cruising cutter fleet--including the new 327-foot Treasury Class cutters, the effects of the end of Prohibition on the Coast Guard, a proposed list of locations of vessels, communication construction projects, small boat station and other suggested reconditioning projects that required funding under the National Industrial Recovery Act as submitted by the Commandant, Rear Admiral H. G. Hamlet, to the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Employment Stabilization Board).
  • 1941: Treasury Department memos regarding the Coast Guard, transfer to the Navy, duties and responsibilities on the eve of the U.S. entrance into hostilities during World War II.

1946-1980:

  • 1980: "State of the Coast Guard Address," 16 January 1980 (The transcript of the speech given by ADM John Hayes to the Officers' Association and Chief Petty Officers' Association at a luncheon at Andrew's Air Force Base, 16 January 1980) as published in the Commandant's Bulletin 7-80 (11 February 1980), pp. 3-6.  The Department of Transportation's "Civil Rights Policy Statement" is appended to the transcript).

1981-1999:

  • 1985: "State of the Coast Guard."  (The transcript of a speech given by ADM James S. Gracey to the Coast Guard Officers Ass'n, Washington, D.C., March 19, 1985) as published in the Commandant's Bulletin 10-85 (May 10, 1985), pp. 12-22.  Includes the "Questions & Answers" session after his speech.

  • 1988: Command At Sea: Orientation Publication; COMDTPUB P1500.17 (old CG-359); Commandant (G-OCU) publication; dated 5 April 1988.

  • 1995: The Deepwater Mission Analysis Report (MAR) reviewed all missions performed in the deepwater environment and provided and estimate of what capabilities the Coast Guard required to carry out those responsibilities effectively.
  • 1996: The Identification of Mission Need Statement (MNS) documented a continuing need for deepwater assets, current interconnectivity and interoperability difficulties and the current decline of missions capability.  The MNS stated that the Deepwater Project would be developed as an "integrated system of surface, air and sensor components."  The project was designated as a major system acquisition and authorized to proceed.
  • 1997: COMINST M5440.2N: Operating Facilities of the U.S. Coast Guard (OPFAC), 1997.
  • 1998: Report 99-6: COAST GUARD'S ACQUISITION MANAGEMENT: Deepwater Project's Justification and Affordability Need to Be Addressed More Thoroughly (October 1998).
  • 1999: Report B-281829 (161799) COAST GUARD: Review of Administrative and Support Functions "to identify areas of possible budget savings and to determine if additional opportunities for cost savings exist."
  • 1999-2000: GAO Report 99-83: COAST GUARD: Key Budget Issues for Fiscal [Years] 1999 and 2000, Testimony (11 February 1999).
  • 1999: GAO Report 99-116: COAST GUARD: Strategies for Procuring New Ships, Aircraft, and Other Assets, Testimony (16 March 1999).
  • 1999: "A Coast Guard for the Twenty-First Century": an executive summary of a report from the President's Interagency Task Force on Coast Guard Roles and Missions that focused on long-term maritime issues facing the nation and the challenging environment in which the U.S. Coast Guard expected to operate in in 2020.

2001-2010:

2000:

  • GAO: Report 00-103: COAST GUARD: Budget Challenges for 2001 and Beyond, Testimony (15 March 2000).

2001:

  •  GAO: Report 01-564: COAST GUARD: Progress Being Made on Deepwater Project, but Risks Remain (May 2001).

2002:

  • GAO: Report 02-538T: COAST GUARD: Budget and Management Challenges for 2003 and Beyond, Testimony (19 March 2002).

2003:

  • GAO: Report 03-467T: HOMELAND SECURITY: Challenges Facing the Coast Guard as it Transitions to the New Department, Testimony (12 February 2003).
  • GAO: Report 03-594T: COAST GUARD: Challenges During the Transition to the Department of Homeland Security, Testimony (1 April 2003).

2004:

  • GAO: Report 04-636T: COAST GUARD: Key Management and Budget Challenges for Fiscal Year 2005 and Beyond, Testimony (7 April 2004).

2005:

  • GAO: Report 05-364T: COAST GUARD: Observations on Agency Priorities in Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Request, Testimony (17 March 2005).

2006:

  • GAO: Report 06-546: COAST GUARD: Changes to Deepwater Plan Appear Sound, and Program Management Has Improved, but Continued Monitoring Is Warranted (April 2006).
  • GAO: Report 06-764: COAST GUARD: Status of Deepwater Fast Response Cutter Design Efforts (June 2006).
  • GAO: Report 06-903: COAST GUARD: Observations on the Preparation, Response, and Recovery Missions Related to Hurricane Katrina (2006).

2007:

2008:

  • GAO: Report 07-489T: COAST GUARD Observations on the Fiscal Year 2008 Budget, Performance, Reorganization, and Related Challenges, Testimony (18 April 2007).
  • GAO: Report 08-531T: COAST GUARD Deepwater Program Management Initiatives and Key Homeland Security Missions (5 March 2008).
  • GAO: Report 08-660: COAST GUARD Strategies for Mitigating the Loss of Patrol Boats Are Achieving Results in the Near Term, but They Come at a Coast and Longer Term Sustainability Is Unknown (June 2008).
  • GAO: Report 08-745: COAST GUARD Change in Course Improves Deepwater Management and Oversight, but Outcome Still Uncertain (June 2008).

2009:

  • GAO: Report 08-494T: COAST GUARD: Observations on the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget, Recent Performance, and Related Challenges, Testimony (6 March 2008).
  • GAO: Report 09-462T: COAST GUARD: Observations on Changes to Management and Oversight of the Deepwater Program (24 March 2009).
  • GAO: Report 09-620T: COAST GUARD Update on Deepwater Program Management, Coast, and Acquisition Workforce (22 April 2009).
  • GAO: Report 09-497: COAST GUARD: Better Logistics Planning Needed to Aid Operational Decisions Related to the Deployment of the National Security Cutter and Its Support Assets (July 2009).
  • GAO: Report 09-530R: Coast Guard: Observations on the Genesis and Progress of the Service's Modernization Program (24 June 2009).
  • GAO: Report 09-682: COAST GUARD: As Deepwater Systems Integrator, Coast Guard is Reassessing Costs and Capabilities but Lags in Applying Its Disciplined Acquisition Approach (July 2009).

2010:

  •  GAO Report 09-810T: COAST GUARD Observations on the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget and Related Performance and Management Challenges, Testimony (7 July 2009).
  • GAO: Report 10-411T: COAST GUARD Observations on the Requested Fiscal Year 2011 Budget, Past Performance, and Current Challenges, Testimony (25 February 2010).
  •  GAO: Report 10-790: COAST GUARD Deepwater Requirements, Quantities, and Cost Require Revalidation to Reflect Knowledge Gained (July 2010).
  • GAO: Report 10-870: COAST GUARD: Efforts to Identify Arctic Requirements are Ongoing, but More Communication about Agency Planning Efforts Would Be Beneficial (September 2010).
  • GAO: Report 10-940T: Maritime Security: DHS Progress and Challenges in Key Areas of Port Security (21 July 2010).
  •  GAO: Report 11-140R: Maritime Security: Responses to Questions for the Record (22 October 2010).

2011-Present

2011:

  • DHS: DHS OIG Report 11-31: The Coast Guard's Polar Icebreaker Maintenance, Upgrade, and Acquisition Program (OIG-11-31; 19 January 2011).
  •  "Testimony of Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr. Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard on the Coast Guard Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request Before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, March 10, 2011."
  • GAO: Report 11-535T: Observations on Acquisition Management and Efforts to Reassess the Deepwater Program (13 April 2001).
  • GAO: Report 11-743: COAST GUARD: Action Needed As Approved Deepwater Program Remains Unachievable (July 2011).
  • GAO: Report 11-881: DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Progress Made and Work Remaining in Implementing Homeland Security Missions 10 Years after 9/11 (September 2011).

2012:

  • GAO: Report-12-918: COAST GUARD: Portfolio Management Approach Needed to Improve Major Acquisition Outcomes (Report to the Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, House of Representatives, September 2012).
  • GAO: Report-12-1009T: MARITIME SECURITY: Progress and Challenges 10 Years After the Maritime Transportation Security Act (Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, House of Representatives, Statement of Stephen L. Caldwell, Director, Homeland Security and Justice; 11 September 2012).

We would like to thank historian and retired Coast Guardsman William R. Wells, II and retired Coast Guardsman Dana Lewis for their assistance in compiling many of these documents, especially the  historic Regulations and other 19th Century documents as well as on the history of uniforms.


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Last Modified 8/14/2014