Happy 231st Birthday, U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard is one of the oldest organizations of the federal government. On August 4, 1790, President George Washington signed the Tariff Act that called for the construction of ten vessels to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. The organization served as the nation’s only armed force afloat up until 1798 when the Navy Department was established.

For nearly 125 years after its formation, the Coast Guard was known by several names: “revenue cutters,” the “system of cutters,” the Revenue Marine, and finally the Revenue Cutter Service. In 1925, the service adopted its present name the U.S. Coast Guard under an act of Congress that merged the Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Life-Saving Service.

It was also under that same act of Congress that the Coast Guard was codified alongside the nation’s other armed services in that it “shall constitute a part of the military forces of the United States.” In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the transfer of the Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard and in 1946, Congress transferred the Commerce Department‘s Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation. Both transferred placed lighthouses and merchant marine licensing and merchant vessel safety under the Coast Guard‘s purview. At this point, the Coast Guard served as the nation’s single maritime federal agency dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the United States’ maritime laws.

In 1967, the Coast Guard was transferred to the newly-formed Department of Transportation after serving under the Treasury Department for 177 years.

In 2003 and as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Coast Guard was transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) where it serves as the front-line agency for enforcing the nation’s law at sea, protecting the marine environment and the nation’s coastline and ports, and saving life. The Coast Guard operates under the DHS during peacetime but serves as part of the Navy Department in times of war or at the direction of the President of the United States.

Today, the U.S. Coast Guard has approximately 43,000 active duty personnel, more than 8,000 Reservists, and 30,000 Auxiliary personnel that serve in several fields including operation specialists, small-boat operators, maintenance specialists, electronic technicians, and aviation mechanics. These men and women carry out the Coast Guard‘s responsibilities of providing search and rescue (SAR), maritime law enforcement (MLE), aids to navigation (ATON), ice breaking, environmental protection, port security, and military readiness.

To all our U.S. Coast Guards, Reservists, and Auxiliaries, thank you for stepping up to serve and defend our nation!

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