United States Coast Guard Law and Legal Definition

The United States Coast Guard is a military service and armed-forces branch that enforces the federal laws applicable to waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction. The United States Coast Guard administers laws and promulgates regulations for the safety of lives and property on waters under U.S. jurisdiction and also carries out maritime rescue operations. The United States Coast Guard performs oceanographic research and sometimes serves as a specialized branch of the Navy.

The Coast Guard was established in 1915. It is a unique force that carries out an array of civil and military responsibilities touching almost every facet of the U.S. maritime environment. The Coast Guard has been part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Today it consists of nearly 42,000 men and women on active duty and is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, and the U.S. Department of Defense during wartime.