Coast Guard celebrates 219th anniversary

SAN PEDRO, Calif. — The U.S. Coast Guard celebrates 219 years of service as America’s Guardians on Tuesday, embracing their history of ensuring the safety and security of the nation’s maritime transportation system, while continuing to modernize for the future.

First proposed in 1790 by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton as a “system of cutters” to generate revenue through the collection of tariffs, today’s Coast Guard performs 11 vital missions around the world, including:

  • Ports, waterways and coastal security
  • Drug interdiction
  • Aids to navigation
  • Search and rescue
  • Living marine resources
  • Marine safety
  • Defense readiness
  • Migrant interdiction
  • Marine environmental protection
  • Ice operations
  • Other law enforcement

From its genesis as the Revenue Marine in 1790 under the Treasury Department, the Coast Guard traces its roots to four other distinct federal services including the U.S. Lighthouse Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service and the U.S. Life-Saving Service. The service also moved from the Treasury Department to the Navy Department (first in 1917 and again in 1941), returning to the Treasury Department in 1946 where it remained until moving to the Department of Transportation in 1967. The Coast Guard moved to the newly formed Department of Homeland Security in 2003.

In keeping with the service’s history of evolving to best serve America’s interests and needs, today’s Coast Guard is, according to Commandant Adm. Thad Allen, modernizing its organization, structure and processes to, “create a Coast Guard that can effectively meet the mission demands of the 21st century and hardware and human-ware that is flexible, agile and adaptable, a Coast Guard that is more sensitive and responsive to changes in mission demand signals, a Coast Guard that is structured internally to focus on mission execution and the support required to execute that mission.”

Nearly 42,000 active-duty, 7,484 reserve, 7,659 civilian and 29,000 auxiliary personnel use 247 cutters, 1,850 boats and 204 aircraft to save lives, protect property, ensure the prosperity of our maritime nation, facilitate maritime commerce and protect our nation against all hazards and all threats.

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