Today Marks The United States Coast Guard’s 223rd Birthday
The U.S. Coast Guard is one of the five armed forces of the United States and the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security. Since 1790 the Coast Guard has safeguarded our Nation’s maritime interests and environment around the world. The Coast Guard is an adaptable, responsive military force of maritime professionals whose broad legal authorities, capable assets, geographic diversity and expansive partnerships provide a persistent presence along our rivers, in the ports, littoral regions and on the high seas. Coast Guard presence and impact is local, regional, national and international. These attributes make the Coast Guard a unique instrument of maritime safety, security and environmental stewardship.
The Coast Guard’s official history began on 4 August 1790 when President George Washington signed the Tariff Act that authorized the construction of 10 vessels, referred to as “cutters,” to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. Known variously through the 19th and early 20th centuries as the “revenue cutters,” the “system of cutters,” and finally the Revenue Cutter Service, it expanded in size and responsibilities as the nation grew.
The service received its present name in 1915 under an act of Congress that merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the U. S. Life-Saving Service, thereby providing the nation with a single maritime service dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation’s maritime laws. The Coast Guard began maintaining the country’s aids to maritime navigation, including lighthouses, when President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the transfer of the Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard in 1939. In 1946 Congress permanently transferred the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation to the Coast Guard, thereby placing merchant marine licensing and merchant vessel safety under its purview.
The Coast Guard is one of the oldest organizations of the federal government and until Congress established the Navy Department in 1798 it served as the nation’s only armed force afloat. The Coast Guard protected the nation throughout its long history and served proudly in every one of the nation’s conflicts. The Coast Guard’s national defense responsibilities remain one of its most important functions even today. In times of peace it operates as part of the Department of Homeland Security, serving as the nation’s front-line agency for enforcing the nation’s laws at sea, protecting the marine environment and the nation’s vast coastline and ports, and saving life. In times of war, or at the direction of the President, the Coast Guard serves as part of the Navy Department.
The Coast Guard has roles in maritime homeland security, maritime law enforcement (MLE), search and rescue (SAR), marine environmental protection (MEP), and the maintenance of river, intracoastal and offshore aids to navigation (ATON).
While most military services are either at war or training for war, the Coast Guard is deployed every day. With a decentralized organization and much responsibility placed on even the most junior personnel, the Coast Guard is frequently lauded for its quick responsiveness and adaptability in a broad range of emergencies.
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