Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
The Ebb & Flow of the United States Coast Guard: Our Forgotten Heroes in Times of Crisis
ExpressO (2007)
  • Lynne D Shelton
The Ebb and Flow of the United States Coast Guard: Our Forgotten Heroes The American public is constantly reminded by advertising that armed forces are protecting their freedoms. It is common to turn on a television or radio and hear “the few, the proud the Marines” or even the newly touted “Army of One” Arguably, however, it is the Coast Guard who are the forgotten heroes who have been protecting our borders for over 200 years. The Coast Guard's motto is “Semper Paratus,” meaning "Always Ready". The United States Coast Guard, (USCG) has participated in every U.S. conflict from landing troops on D-Day and on the Pacific Islands in World War II, extensive patrols and shore bombardment during the Vietnam War, to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Coast Guard is a branch of the “armed forces” of the United States. The term “armed forces” included the divisions of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Today, the Coast Guard is also a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), unlike any other branches of the military which are components of the Department of Defense. The USCG is a multimissioned maritime service. Its purpose is to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic interests in the Nation’s ports and waterways, along the coast, on international waters, or in any maritime region to support national security. The broad role that USCG plays in homeland security further includes law enforcement, search and rescue, marine environmental pollution response, and the maintenance of rivers, as well as, intracoastal and offshore aids to navigation. As of January 2005, The USCG had approximately 39,000 men and women on active duty; 8,100 reservists; 7,000 full time civilian employees and 35,000 civilian volunteers known as “auxiliarists”. This article focuses on some of the United States legal issues surrounding maritime security at our borders. Section II will highlight the history of the USCG from its inception in the 1700’s through its new responsibilities after September 11th 2001. Section III will critic the Maritime Security as it is today, including what measures have been taken under Homeland Security, port security and shipping container security. Section IV outlines the future vision of change which arguably should occur and what the War on Terrorism means to the United States Coast Guard. This article advocates placing additional capabilities to current systems, thus allowing the members of the USCG to infuse transparency that is desired to ensure an internationally secure maritime system. Further, by adding these additional requirements the USCG will be creating a layering of security. The recognition of the fact that no security system is bullet proof, whether it is American ports or ports around the globe is foundational to a global society. This system could then be followed by other countries. The technology should especially be shared with smaller growing countries. The only way to ensure maritime security is to provide every port comparable security systems. If a port is left vulnerable, then terrorists will arguably use it to hurt their targets. In today’s global economy, and manufacturing based on “just-in-time” supplies, one port down will affect the entire international maritime community. Maritime Security has been redefined in the twenty first century. The ultimate effect of the new initiatives upon world trade and maritime commerce remains uncertain. However, what is certain is that through the generations, the men and women of the Coast Guard have stepped forward to defend our nation. The USCG protects our waterways and ports, enforces maritime law, and safeguards commerce, transportation and natural resources. For over two centuries the USCG has rescued those in peril on the seas. Now the Coast Guard is carrying out those missions during a new kind of war. A war on a national front that is full of electronic possibilities. The Coast Guard has always been vital to our nation's security, and the American people should be grateful to stand behind their ever lifted shield of freedom.
  • homeland security,
  • coast guard,
  • maritime,
  • admiralty,
  • international trade
Publication Date
May, 2007
Citation Information
Lynne D Shelton. "The Ebb & Flow of the United States Coast Guard: Our Forgotten Heroes in Times of Crisis" ExpressO (2007)
Available at: