United States Coast Guard (USCG) History:Also check out our US Coast Guard quote section!
Founded by Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue Cutter Service on 4 August 1790, the Coast Guard is the United States' oldest continuous seagoing service. From 1790, when the Continental Navy was disbanded, to 1798, when the United States Navy was created, the Revenue Cutter Service provided the only armed American presence on the sea.
The history of the United States Coast Guard goes back to the Revenue Cutter Service as part of the Department of the Treasury. The Revenue Cutter Service and the United States Life-Saving Service were merged to become the Coast Guard per 14 U.S.C. § 1 which states: "The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times." In 1939, the United States Lighthouse Service was merged into the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard itself was moved to the Department of Transportation in 1967, and on February 25, 2003 it became part of the Department of Homeland Security. However, under 14 U.S.C. § 3 as amended by section 211 of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006, upon the declaration of war and when Congress so directs in the declaration, or when the President directs, the Coast Guard operates as a service in the Department of the Navy.
The United States Coast Guard carries out three basic roles, which are further subdivided into eleven statutory missions. The three roles are:
The eleven statutory missions as defined by law are divided into homeland security missions and non-homeland security (or legacy) missions.
Legacy missions include: Marine safety, search and rescue, aids to navigation, living marine resources (fisheries law enforcement), marine environmental protection, and ice operations
Homeland security missions include: Ports, waterways, and coastal security (PWCS); drug interdiction; migrant interdiction; defense readiness; and other law enforcement.
This dual role stems from the dual authority of the Coast Guard, with authority as an armed service under the department of defense and authority as a law enforcement agency. The service has participated in every major U.S. conflict from 1790 through today as well as enforcing US law in the world's largest exclusive economic zone of 3.4 million square miles.
Unlike the other branches of the United States Armed Forces, which are prevented from acting in a law enforcement capacity by the Posse Comitatus Act and Department of Defense policy, under 18 U.S.C. § 1385 the Coast Guard is exempt from and not subject to the restrictions of the Posse Comitatus Act.
Further law enforcement authority is given by 14 U.S.C. § 143 and 19 U.S.C. § 1401, which empower U.S. Coast Guard active and reserve commissioned officers, warrant officers, and petty officers as federal customs officers. This places them under 19 U.S.C. § 1589a, which grants customs officers general law enforcement authority, including the authority to:
(1) carry a firearm;
(2) execute and serve any order, warrant, subpoena, summons, or other process issued under the authority of the United States;
(3) make an arrest without a warrant for any offense against the United States committed in the officer's presence or for a felony, cognizable under the laws of the United States committed outside the officer's presence if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing a felony; and
(4) perform any other law enforcement duty that the Secretary of Homeland Security may designate.
These law enforcement duties are carried out by the U.S. Coast Guard's 192 special agents and 3,780 maritime law enforcement boarding officers.
As of August 2009 the Coast Guard had approximately 42,000 men and women on active duty, 7,500 reservists, 30,000 auxiliarists, and 7,700 full-time civilian employees.
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