Authorized by Congress in 1790, the United States Coast Guard is the country’s oldest federal maritime agency. It’s part of the Department of Homeland Security, as opposed to the Department of Defense, to which the other military services belong. The roles of the USCG have gone through a number of changes throughout its lifetime. Today it has eleven specified missions which include the following:
- Conducting patrols of waterways, ports, and coastlines to provide security, gather and analyze intelligence, and uncover and assess vulnerabilities in an effort to combat terrorist attacks.
- Participating in military operations around the world, most often in a support capacity
- Controlling Illegal Immigration into the United States by using ships, aircraft, and other military assets to intercept illegals attempting to enter the country by water.
- Conducting search and rescue missions and maintaining emergency response stations in an effort to assist groups and individuals in distress.
- Monitoring and managing waterways in and around the United States and its territories to ensure the safe and efficient flow of traffic.
- Conducting inspections and patrols in order to enforce federal fishing laws.
- Assisting in the transport of goods and personnel in polar regions in conjunction with federally funded scientific experimentation and national security efforts. The USCG uses special ships and equipment to break through ice sheets and uses state-of-the-art technology to monitor and keep track of icebergs to help direct commercial ships.
- Establishing safety standards and inspecting commercial ships in order to maintain those standards.
- Responding to oil and chemical spills and taking preventative measures to stop illegal dumping in U.S. waters. The Guard also works to curb the proliferation of marine plant and animal life that may be potentially invasive.
- Utilizing air and sea support to track and intercept illegal drug shipments
- Protecting U.S. fish stocks so that foreigners don’t raid them.