By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
The United States Coast Guard is the lead federal maritime law enforcement agency and is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It was created on August 4, 1790 when President George Washington signed the Tariff Act that created the Coast Guard’s original name: the Revenue Cutter Service. The original role of the Revenue Cutter Service was to enforce the tariff and trade laws.
In 1915, the Coast Guard officially got its name when the U.S. Life-Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service merged to provide both maritime safety and maritime law enforcement.
Currently, the Coast Guard operates a fleet of 269 cutters over 65 feet in length, 1,602 boats under 65 feet and 200 aircraft. There are 49,496 enlisted, officer and civilian employees, who work around our country in areas such as the Great Lakes and our coastlines.
Meeting Maritime Needs
The Coast Guard has also had a role in countering smuggling, starting from its days as the Revenue Cutter Service. Over the years, the Coast Guard has met the maritime needs of our country as necessary. Today, the Coast Guard has six operational missions that guide its daily operations:
- Maritime Law Enforcement – protecting our border from smugglers, countering drug trafficking and international organized crime, and enforcing boating safety regulations
- Maritime Response – responding to medical emergencies, vessel accidents, and other incidents where lifesaving efforts are needed
- Maritime Prevention – enforcing port security operations, enforcing federal regulations to protect the marine environment and conducting safety inspections for maritime facilities
- Marine Transportation System Management – ensuring safety in the waterway system for the shipping industry
- Maritime Security Operations – preventing counterterrorism operations and protecting for America’s ports and waterways
- Defense Operations – protecting our nation’s borders
During times of war, the President can even direct the Coast Guard to operate as part of the Navy under Title 14 of the United States Code.
The Coast Guard Role in Cybersecurity
One of the lesser-known aspects of the Coast Guard involves its role in protecting our cybersecurity. The Coast Guard Cyber Command protects the Coast Guard’s cyberspace and the Department of Defense’s information network. It also enables Coast Guard cyber operations and offers critical infrastructure protection by guarding the cyberspace of our maritime transportation system.
According to Coast Guard Cyber Command, its strategy involves securing cyberspace for critical infrastructure, guarding our national defenses, and promoting security and prosperity for the American people. The Cyber Command also operates a Cyber Intelligence Department, which provides internal intelligence support and collaborates with its intelligence units, the Intelligence Community, and the Department of Homeland Security.
The Coast Guard Continues Evolving to Meet Modern-Day Needs
The Coast Guard continues to evolve to meet the demands associated with modern-day risks within the maritime environment. To meet these demands, this military branch continues to invest in its people and equipment.
Related link: The Coast Guard and Preventing Environmental Pollution