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Coast Guard Roles and Missions

The United States is a maritime nation with extensive interests in the seas around us and far beyond. As a U.S. Coast Guard officer, you'll help to secure these interests, fulfilling the Coast Guard's strategic roles of ensuring the safety, security and stewardship of our nation’s waters.

Semper Paratus

The Coast Guard’s service motto is Semper Paratus – Always Ready. We are on duty 365 days a year.

Missions of the Coast Guard

Coast Guard units each perform more than one kind of mission – sometimes on the same day. They are America’s Maritime Guardians, saving lives and deterring complex threats – from disrupting transnational crime and terrorism, to preventing cyber threats to our ports, to addressing the impact of human activity in the polar-regions as ice caps recede.

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Search and Rescue: Prevent loss of life or injury and minimize property loss at sea by rendering aid to those in distress. Search and Rescue is one of the Coast Guard’s oldest missions.

Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security: Protect people and property in the U.S. Maritime Transportation System by preventing, disrupting and responding to terrorist attacks, sabotage, espionage or subversive acts.

Drug Interdiction: Deter and disrupt the illegal drug market, dismantle transnational organized crime and prevent these threats from reaching U.S. shores. The USCG coordinates closely with other federal agencies and allied partners within a six-million-square-mile area known as the transit zone.

Migrant Interdiction: Promote safe, legal and orderly migration operations by enforcing U.S. immigration laws, upholding international conventions against human smuggling and repatriating undocumented migrants.

Living Marine Resources: Enforce U.S. and international laws and treaties to conserve living marine resources and their habitat, including endangered and protected species and locales.

Marine Environmental Protection: Reduce the risk of harm to the marine ecosystem by developing and enforcing regulations to avert the introduction of invasive species, prevent and respond to oil spills and hazardous substance discharges and stop unauthorized ocean dumping.

Ice Operations: Break ice in the Great Lakes and Northeast to facilitate commerce and protect communities in emergency situations. Conduct research and resupply the McMurdo Station research center in Antarctica, and maintain year-round access to the planet's polar regions using Polar Icebreakers.

Marine Safety: Prevent accidents and property losses by establishing maritime standards, conducting inspections and investigations, partnering with boating safety organizations and licensing U.S. mariners.

Aids to Navigation: Mark the nation's Marine Transportation System, including waterways and ports. Maintain 50,000 electronic and visual aids and provide traffic management services to keep mariners and boaters safe.

Other Law Enforcement: Protect the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from encroachments by foreign fishing vessels and enforce agreements to reduce illegal fishing. The U.S. exercises sovereign rights over all resources in the EEZ, which encompasses more than 4.5 million square miles of waters within 200 miles of the U.S. coastline.

Defense Readiness: Support the national military strategy and Department of Defense movement and operations by securing airspace in Washington, DC; conducting intercept operations; and in-theater environmental protection, force protection and port control.

On a Typical DayThe Coast Guard will...
15 Save Lives SVGSave 15 lives
117 DistressAssist 117 people in distress
$2.8M Protect Property SVGProtect $2.8 million
in property
15 Interdict illegal migrants SVGInterdict 15 illegal migrants at sea
90 Search and Rescue SVGConduct 90 search
and rescue cases
21 Seize SVGSeize $21 million worth
of illegal drugs
122 Board vessels SVGBoard and inspect 122 vessels
2,557 Commercial ship SVGMonitor the transit of 2,557
commercial ships through U.S. ports