U.S. Coast Guard
Chapter 8
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The US Coast Guard (USCG) is the Nation’s oldest continuous seagoing service.  The USCG can trace its history to 1790 with the introduction of the Revenue Cutter Service, whose mission was the enforcement of the first tariff laws enacted by Congress under the Constitution.  What we know as today’s Coast Guard is actually a combination of five Federal agencies.  In addition to the Cutter Service, these agencies included the Lighthouse Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, the Bureau of Navigation, and the Lifesaving Service. [1]  The multiple missions and responsibilities of today’s Coast Guard can be traced back to these initial agencies with four main mission areas today—maritime law enforcement, maritime safety, marine environmental protection, and national security. [2]

While on a day-to-day basis the USCG falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation (DoT), the USCG is at all times an armed force—a full time military organization with a true peacetime mission. [3]   During times of war or at the direction of the President, the USCG functionally transfers to the Department of Defense under the Secretary of the Navy.

In this chapter, the characteristics of both the Active and Reserve Components of the USCG are presented.  Comparisons are presented for applicants (active enlisted only), accessions, and end-strength for enlisted members, officer corps, and warrant officers.  Where applicable, comparisons include overall DoD [4] figures and comparable civilian data for reference.

[2] USCG International Training Handbook (9th ed.).  URL:

[3]   Ibid.

[4] Overall DoD refers to the combined total of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

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