Thursday, May 24th, 2012 - 13:29
The United States Coast Guard has ensured the safety, security,
and stewardship of the nation’s maritime domain for
more than 220 years.
On the History and Evolving Mission of the U.S. Coast Guard
I like to describe the Coast Guard as a series of mergers and friendly takeovers over a course of two centuries. We actually started back in 1790. We were the brainchild of Alexander Hamilton, who was the first secretary of the treasury. The service received its present name in 1915 under an act of Congress that merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the 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. We kept our military character; during World War II we added the Light House Service aids to navigation, and then the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation which gave us our merchant mariner licensing, ship inspection, [and] ship safety responsibilities. We have added responsibilities throughout our history starting out in the Department of the Treasury, moving to the Department of Transportation in 1967, and now being an integral component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security since 2003. The Coast Guard is certainly unique as we have a dual military and law enforcement role. We have about 42,000 uniformed active duty people right now. We have 8,000 civilians, 8,000 Coast Guard reservists that we can call up in emergencies. We have this other unique organization called the Coast Guard Auxiliary that is a volunteer organization. They are a force multiplier for us at virtually no cost to taxpayers, so we’re very proud of them. Our budget is roughly a $10 billion budget.
On the Challenges of Leading the U.S. Coast Guard
I’m a service chief similar to the other service chiefs (i.e, commandant of the Marine Corps, chief of staff of the Air Force, chief of staff of the Army, and the chief of Naval Operations); our primary role is to organize, train, and equip our service to be prepared for the duties that the country gives us. There’s one difference for the commandant of the Coast Guard though. The other service chiefs organize, train, and equip, but the forces are transferred operationally to the combatant commanders.
Read the entire interview.