Increase combatant naval forces by being armed
t o c a r r y o u t c o nvo y, a n t i a i r c r a f t , o r
In wartime or a national emergency short of war,
our government can get much-needed ships to perform
merchant marine tasks from several sources. These
sources include merchant ships flying the U.S. flag or a
foreign flag, the National Defense Reserve Fleet, and
the Military Sealift Command (MSC).
REVIEW 3 QUESTIONS
Q1. Describe the peacetime mission of the U.S.
Q2. List the wartime mission of the U.S. Merchant
THE U.S. COAST GUARD
RESPONSIBILITY IN SEA POWER
Learning Objective: When you finish this chapter, you
will be able to
Identify the missions and functions of the U.S.
Coast Guard in wartime and peacetime.
The multimission nature of the Coast Guard makes
it unique among the armed services of the United States.
It has an operational peacetime role and is the only U.S.
military service outside the Department of Defense.
The Coast Guard is the nations oldest continuous
seagoing service. It was set up in 1790 as the United
States Revenue Marine (later renamed the Revenue
Cutter Service). The United States Revenue Marine was
an arm of the Treasury Department, under then
Secretary Alexander Hamilton. The Revenue Marine
was primarily a law enforcement agency. Its
responsibility was to collect custom duties from ships
entering United States waters.
Although the original role of the service was law
enforcement, revenue cutters took part in almost every
c o n f l i c t i nvo l v i n g t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s . T h e s e
involvements showed the military readiness of the
In the mid-1800s, Congress set up the U.S.
Lifesaving Service, consisting of stations scattered
along U.S. coasts. Shortly after the turn of the century,
the Lifesaving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service
merged to form the U.S. Coast Guard. That merger
provided the Coast Guard with its traditional
In 1939, the Coast Guard joined the Lighthouse
Service and assumed responsibility for setting up and
maintaining aids to navigation in U.S. waters. That
responsibility has grown to such an extent that today the
Coast Guard maintains nearly 50,000 navigational aids,
including worldwide electronic navigation systems.
The modern-day mission of the Coast Guard is an
interesting mixture of duties, including the following:
Enforcement of maritime laws and treaties
Search and rescue operations
Enforcement of U.S. drug and contraband laws
Installation and maintenance of aids to
Icebreaking operations that keep commercial
vessel traffic moving in domestic waters and
support scientific research in the Arctic and
As the primary maritime law enforcement agency
of the United States, the Coast Guard enforces the
following maritime regulatory laws: