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National Defense

General Defense Duties

For more than 210 years, the Coast Guard has served the nation as one of the five armed forces. Throughout its distinguished history, the Coast Guard has enjoyed a unique relationship with the Navy. This began with the Quasi-War with France in 1798, and continued through the Civil War, the World Wars, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, and the Global War on Terror. Under Title 14 U.S.C. § 1, the Coast Guard is “at all times an armed force of the United States.” As part of the Joint Force, the Coast Guard maintains its readiness to carry out military operations in support of the policies and objectives of the U.S. government.

The Defense Readiness mission supports the National Military Strategy and Department of Defense (DoD) operations by ensuring Coast Guard assets are capable and equipped to deploy and conduct joint operations in support the most critical needs of the combatant commanders in the following major national-defense missions:

  1. Maritime interception/interdiction operations
  2. Military environmental response
  3. Port operations, security, and defense
  4. Theater security cooperation
  5. Coastal sea control operations
  6. Rotary-Wing Air Intercept (RWAI) operations
  7. Combating terrorism operations
  8. Maritime Operational Threat Response (MOTR) support

These support the unified combatant commanders and require the Coast Guard to execute essential military operations in peacetime, crisis, and war.

Homeland Security

U.S. national security interests are no longer defined solely in terms of direct military threats to America and its allies. The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 demonstrated the emerging threat of unconventional warfare faced on the U.S. home front from sophisticated and covert adversaries. The Coast Guard has assumed one of the lead roles in responding to these unscrupulous attacks upon our nation by sustaining counterterrorism operations in the maritime domain in and around our nation’s harbors, ports and coastlines. Commercial, tanker, passenger, and merchant vessels have all been subject to increased security measures enforced by the Coast Guard.

Abroad, the Coast Guard assists foreign naval and maritime forces through training and joint operations. Many of the world’s maritime nations have forces that operate principally in the littoral seas and conduct missions similar to those of the Coast Guard. Because of the Coast Guard’s long-time experience and multi-mission capability, the Coast Guard is a powerful role model to other nations that is in ever-increasing demand. The service’s close working relations with these nations not only improve mutual cooperation as a joint force, but also support U.S. diplomatic efforts in general: promoting democracy, economic prosperity, and trust between nations.

Last Modified 9/5/2014