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ABOUT THE US COAST GUARD

The Coast Guard is an armed maritime service with military, law enforcement, marine environmental protection, preventative safety and search-and-rescue (SAR) missions. In an average day, the Coast Guard conducts 109 SAR cases, saves 10 lives, assists 192 people in distress, protects $2.8 million in property, conducts 396 small boat patrols and 164 aircraft flights, boards 144 vessels and seizes 169 pounds of marijuana and 306 pounds of cocaine worth $9.6 million, interdicts 14 illegal immigrants, processes 238 merchant mariner licenses and documents, boards 100 large vessels for port safety checks, responds to 20 oil or hazardous chemical spills totalling 2,800 gallons, services 135 buoys and other aids to navigation, safely conducts 2,509 vessels in and out of major ports, and its icebreakers assist 197,000 tons of shipping. Yet, interestingly enough, the Coast Guard maintains the same personnel levels as it did in 1967 and is smaller the New York City police department.

Formed as the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790 by Alexander Hamilton to collect taxes and deter piracy, the Coast Guard is the oldest armed, uniformed service in continual operation since 1790. (The Army, Navy and Marines were disbanded after the War for Independence and only later formed again; the Air Force was created in 1947.) In 1915, the federal lighthouse and lifesaving services were merged with the Revenue Cutter Service and renamed the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard was nominally under the administration of the Department of the Treasury (except during times of war, when it was under the Navy Department) until the 1960s, when it was transferred to the authority of the Department of Transportation. In March, 2003, the Coast Guard was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security.

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