The history of the many missions of the U.S. Coast
and its predecessor services.
When originally established in 1790 Congress authorized the Coast Guard to
protect the nation's revenue through enforcing tariff laws and preventing
smuggling. As the nation grew though, so did the mission-set of the
nation's oldest federal sea service.
Today the Coast Guard has eleven statutory missions
(listed in order of
percentage of total operating expenses):
Aids to Navigation (ATON: including
maintaining the nation's lighthouses, buoys & VTS; also legacy ATON
missions including lightships & LORAN)
Living Marine Resources
Polar, Ice &
Alaska Operations (including the
International Ice Patrol)
Law Enforcement (including
Prohibition Enforcement History)
These eleven missions may be generally grouped under
three different classifications:
Safety: includes SAR, Marine Safety & Boating Safety
Stewardship: includes ATON, Ice Operations, Living Marine Resources
(fisheries law enforcement), Marine Environmental Protection & US EEZ
Security: includes Drug Interdiction, Migrant Interdiction, Ports,
Waterways and Coastal Security & Defense Readiness.
Thus, the Coast Guard prides itself on being military, multi-mission, and
A Military Service
The legal basis for the Coast Guard is Title 14 of the United States
Code, which states: "The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall
be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States
at all times." Upon the declaration of war or when the President directs,
the Coast Guard operates under the authority of the Department of the Navy.