In 1915, the Life-Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service were merged to form themodern U.S. Coast Guard. Today, the Coast Guard is a member of the U.S. National Search and Rescue Committee, whosemembers also include the following Federal entities:
Department of Homeland Security (Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency);
Department of Defense (U.S. Air Force);
Department of Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration);
Department of Transportation (Federal Aviation Administration);
Department of the Interior (National Park Service, U.S. Geologic Survey);
Federal Communications Commission; and the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. These entities are signatories to the National Search and Rescue Plan of the United States, which was adopted in its current form in 2007. The National Plan guides the coordination of SAR “services to meet domestic needs and international commitments.”
The specific implementing guidance outlining the policies and procedures followed by services that participate in the NationalSAR Plan is provided in a number of supplemental documents produced by those services. The United States maintains a National SAR School, which the Coast Guard and the U.S. Air Force jointly established in 1966. These two services continue to staff the school, which is now located at the Coast Guard Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia. The National SAR Plan designates the Coast Guard as the entity that “develops, establishes,maintains and operates civil SAR resources for the promotion of safety on, under and overinternational waters and waters subject to United States jurisdiction.”
To meet its operationalresponsibilities, “the Coast Guard maintains SAR facilities on the East, West and Gulf coasts; in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico, as well as on the Great Lakes and inland U.S. waterways.”
The Coast Guard’s SAR mission is specifically authorized by 14 U.S.C. § 88, which states,“[i]n order to render aid to distressed persons, vessels, and aircraft on and under the high seas andon and under the waters over which the United States has jurisdiction and in order to render aid topersons and property imperiled by flood, the Coast Guard may: (1) perform any and all actsnecessary to rescue and aid persons and protect and save property.”One of the addenda supplementing the National Plan is the “U.S. Coast Guard Addendum tothe United States National SAR Supplement,” which guides the Coast Guard’s implementation of itsSAR mission. According to the Coast Guard Addendum, the Coast Guard’s SAR program is guidedby four objectives:1.
Minimize loss of life, injury, and property loss and damage in the maritime environment;2.
Minimize crew risk during SAR missions;
National Search and Rescue Plan of the United States
(2007) at 1.
., at 4.
Coast Guard Office of Search and Rescue,
SAR Mission Statement