Coast Guard History
Determining what stands as the most defining moment in the history of the Coast Guard is a complex process. As Sterns points out in his essay “Why Study History?” the observation of historical events is not only the pursuit of facts, but an inquiry into meaning and value. Sterns writes that an important part of the study of history is “ moral contemplation” and that when studying history “a student [tests] his or her own moral sense, to hone it against some of the real complexities individuals have faced in difficult settings” (Sterns, 3).
Therefore, history asserts a moral evaluation. For that reason, choosing a definitive moment in the history of the Coast Guard also requires a moral evaluation as to what even most shaped the moral and ethical dimensions of the present-day guard. For this reason, the assigning of the Coast Guard to the department of Homeland Security in 2002 was the defining moment of Coast Guard history in the modern era.
After 2002 the essential mission of the Coast Guard was redefined. For one thing, the entire service shifted to be under the control of the Department of Homeland Security. The emphasis of the Coast Guard’s mission also shifted and is now based largely on providing checkpoints and defenses against potential acts of terrorism. The shift in practical applications, such as the new emphasis on small-boat patrols and harbor safety shows a corresponding and defining shift in ethical and moral emphasis. As Sterns points out, there is an objective side to history which “provides basic factual information about the background of our political institutions” (Sterns, 5). At there same time, there is a psychological and moral dimension to historical events. The evolution of the United States Coast Guard in the twenty-first century can be seen as a direct response to the persistent threat of terrorist attacks. Therefore the change in assignment to the Department of Homeland Security can be seen as a defining moment in the history of the US Coast Guard.
Stearns, Peter N. “Why Study History?”