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Coast Guard History

Frequently Asked Questions


When was the Coast Guard established?

The Coast Guard is an amalgamation of five formerly distinct federal services.  The following timeline reflects the establishment of those services and when they became part of what is now the United States Coast Guard as well as changes in the organizational structure of the Coast Guard itself.

  • 1967: The Bridge Program was transferred from the Army Corp of Engineers to the U.S. Coast Guard within the Department of Transportation. The Coast Guard then became responsible for approval of the location and plans of bridges and causeways constructed across navigable waters of U.S. In addition, the Coast Guard was responsible for approval of the location and plans of international bridges and the alteration of bridges found to be unreasonable obstructions to navigation. Authority for these actions is found in in the following laws: 33 U.S.C 401, 491, 494, 511-524, 525 and 535a, 535b, 535c, 535e, 535f, 535g, and 535h (Note: these are all separate sections, not subsections of 535). Section 535 and following is popularly known as the International Bridge Act of 1972. The implementing regulations are found in Title 33, Code of Federal Regulations Parts 114 through 118.
  • In January 1973, the Coast Guard renamed the Eastern and Western areas to the Atlantic and Pacific areas, respectively.
  • 30 May 1996: The Eighth and Second Districts were combined to form the new Eighth District.
  • 1 March 2003: The Coast Guard formally transferred from the Department of Transportation to the newly-created Department of Homeland Security.
  • 2004: To create unity of command in America’s ports, better align field command structures, and improve Coast Guard operational effectiveness, Sector Commands were created throughout the Coast Guard by integrating Groups, Marine Safety Offices (MSOs), Vessel Traffic Services (VTSs), and in some cases, Air Stations.  Sector Commands were established by 2006.

Last Modified 9/15/2016