Organization of the United States Coast Guard

This article covers the organization of the United States Coast Guard.

The headquarters of the Coast Guard is located at 2703 Martin Luther King Jr Avenue SE in Washington, D.C.. The Coast Guard relocated to the grounds of the former St. Elizabeths Hospital[1] in 2013.

Flag officers[2]


The Commandant of the Coast Guard is the Coast Guard's most senior officer, who, by law, holds the rank of admiral. The commandant is selected for a four-year term, which may be renewed for additional four-year periods. The current incumbent is Admiral Karl L. Schultz, who replaced Admiral Paul F. Zukunft on June 1, 2018.[3]

The Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard is Admiral Charles W. Ray, who replaced Admiral Charles D. Michel on May 24, 2018.[4]

Vice admiral

The Deputy Commandant for Mission Support is Vice Admiral Michael F. McAllister.[5]

Vice Admiral Marshall B. Lytle III is the Director Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) / Cyber, Chief INformation Officer, Joint Staff, J6/CIO.[6]

The Commander of the Atlantic Area is Vice Admiral Scott Buschman.[7]

The Commander of the Pacific Area Vice Admiral Linda L Fagan.[8]

Rear admiral

There are approximately 38 rear admirals in the Coast Guard. Positions held by rear admirals include the commanders of each of the nine Coast Guard Districts, the nine assistant commandants, and the deputies to each of the vice admirals. They are also located at Coast Guard Headquarters, Department of Defense commands, and other Coast Guard commands.[9]

The Superintendent of the United States Coast Guard Academy is Rear Admiral James E. Rendon.[10]

The Coast Guard also utilizes members of the civilian Senior Executive Service (SES) to serve as executives within the organization. There are approximately 16 SES officials in the Coast Guard.


The rank of commodore is no longer used in the Coast Guard. The equivalent rank used today is rear admiral (lower half). The chief elected officers of the Coast Guard Auxiliary are referred to as commodores, signifying their senior elected office, rather than a military rank.

The title of commodore is occasionally granted to senior officers (typically of pay grade O-6, which is a captain) who are placed in command of a group or squadron of cutters. It is not a flag rank, but rather a title used to signify command of multiple units afloat.

Senior officers


Coast Guard captains, like their Navy counterparts, rank immediately below rear admiral (lower half). Coast Guard captains command most large operational units—sectors, large cutters, large air stations, integrated support commands, training centers and large headquarters units. Captains also direct most headquarters, area and district staff elements. Most captains have served in the Coast Guard for 21 to 30 years.

By maritime tradition, the commanding officer of a ship is also called "captain", regardless of actual rank held. Thus, a young junior officer commanding a patrol boat is properly called "captain" even if his or her actual rank is lieutenant, or lieutenant (junior grade). This tradition has also carried over to many shore units. Occasionally, terms like "old man" and "skipper" are also used, though not usually in the presence of the "captain". However, in current usage, the person in charge of a Coast Guard or Coast Guard Auxiliary small boat is the "coxswain" (pronounced cok-sun).


Coast Guard commanders (Pay grade O-5) may head departments in large operational units or staff positions, or they may be the commanding officer of a medium-sized unit. The term commander is also associated with specific commanding officer positions, such as sector commander (usually a captain) or district commander (usually a rear admiral).

Junior officers

The other commissioned officer ranks are (from most senior to least senior)

  • Lieutenant commander: Examples of positions held by a lieutenant commander include command of some Coast Guard cutters, executive officers of larger cutters, or departmental oversight positions at Coast Guard Sector commands.
  • Lieutenant: Examples of positions held by a lieutenant include command of small boat stations, command of Coast Guard patrol boats, and as operations officers or engineering officers aboard larger Coast Guard cutters.
  • Lieutenant junior grade: Examples of positions held by a lieutenant junior grade include command of Coast Guard patrol boats, executive officers of patrol boats, small boat stations, or as assistant operations officers aboard larger Coast Guard cutters.
  • Ensign. Examples of positions held by an ensign include training billets as deck watch officers aboard large cutters, student engineers aboard large cutters, and staff positions at Coast Guard Sector commands.

Chief warrant officers

The Coast Guard has three active ranks of chief warrant officers. Chief warrant officers are warranted officers and are promoted from senior enlisted ranks. The ranks of warrant officer (WO1) not used in the Coast Guard. Although authorized in 1994, the Coast Guard does not currently use or have any active CWO5 grade.[11] The three ranks in use are (from most senior to least senior):

  • Chief warrant officer 4
  • Chief warrant officer 3
  • Chief warrant officer 2

An example of a position held by a chief warrant officer is commanding officer of a small cutter, such as USCGC Abbie Burgess.[12]

A chief warrant officer is not addressed as "chief"; that title that is normally reserved for the enlisted rank of chief petty officer (E-7). The proper way to address a chief warrant officer is to refer to their title (CWO, CWO3) or to address them as "Mr." or "Ms."

Due to the small and decentralized nature of the service, Coast Guard Warrant Officers often fill command roles. Warrant Officers may serve as officers-in-charge of Coast Guard Stations, or as Command warrant officers.

Chief petty officers

As in the Navy, Coast Guardsmen in the rates of Chief Petty Officer (E-7), Senior Chief Petty Officer (E-8), and Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9), are collectively called "chiefs," and serve as the service's senior non-commissioned officers. The Coast Guard is often found short of leaders therefore. Chiefs often can fill roles that would normally be filled by commissioned officers in other branches. Chiefs can serve as officers-in-charge of Coast Guard Stations, command or serve as engineering petty officers on smaller cutters, and act as department heads on larger cutters.

The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (MCPOCG) is the senior enlisted person of the Coast Guard and serves as an advisor to the Commandant. Like the Commandant, the MCPOCG serves a four-year term.

Regional responsibilities - Areas, Districts, and Sectors

Since most Coast Guard operations are domestic, the service has always been organized along regional lines. The Coast Guard's shore establishment divides the continental United States and its territories into two area commands - Coast Guard Atlantic Area and Coast Guard Pacific Area. The area commands are divided into districts, with each commanded by a rear admiral and responsible for a portion of the nation's coastline. Each district is further divided into sectors.

Individual operational units report at various levels in this organizational structure. For example, small boat stations report to Sector Commanders while air stations report to District Commanders; both sectors and air stations are typically commanded by a captain. Cutters, rather than being organized into fleets as in most naval forces, instead report to shore establishment commanders. Generally speaking, the larger the cutter, the higher up the chain the cutter reports. For example, USCGC William Trump (WPC-1111), a Sentinel-class cutter based in Key West, Florida, reports to Coast Guard Sector Key West, while USCGC Thetis (WMEC-910), a larger Famous-class cutter also based in Key West, reports to the Atlantic Area Commander.

Additionally, there are three major operational commands located outside the United States:

  • USCG Far East Activities (FEACT) is located at Yokota Air Base, Japan. FEACT also commands Port Security Unit’s which deploy to South Korea, helping to support U.S. Naval Forces Korea. FEACT helps inspects U.S. ships overseas and foreign ships that will be operating in the Pacific. FEACT helps by providing Maritime Safety, Security, Training and International Support. [13]
  • USCG Activities Europe (ACTEUR) is located in Schinnen, The Netherlands.[14]
  • Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) is based out of Manama, Bahrain. Established in 2002, the mission of PATFORSWA is to train, organize, equip, support and deploy combat-ready Coast Guard forces in support of CENTCOM and national security objectives.[15]
U.S. Coast Guard Districts
DistrictAreaDistrict OfficeArea of ResponsibilityNote
First DistrictAtlanticBoston, MassachusettsNew England states, eastern New York and northern New Jersey1
Fifth DistrictAtlanticPortsmouth, VirginiaPennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina5
Seventh DistrictAtlanticMiami, FloridaSouth Carolina, Georgia, eastern Florida, Puerto Rico,
and the U.S. Virgin Islands
Eighth District Atlantic New Orleans, Louisiana Western Rivers of the U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico 8
Ninth DistrictAtlanticCleveland, OhioGreat Lakes9
Eleventh DistrictPacificAlameda, CaliforniaCalifornia, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah11
Thirteenth DistrictPacificSeattle, WashingtonOregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana13
Fourteenth District PacificHonolulu, Hawaii Hawaii and Pacific territories 14
Seventeenth DistrictPacificJuneau, AlaskaAlaska17

Coast Guard Sectors

Within each District, large operational shore-side units known as Sectors are responsible for mission execution within their area of responsibility. Sectors were formed when "groups" were merged with what were formerly known as Marine Safety Offices. Coast Guard small boat stations are called Stations and report to Sectors. Each Sector Commander reports to the appropriate District Commander.

Coast Guard Air Stations

Coast Guard Air Stations provide aviation support for other Coast Guard activities. Unlike small boat stations, air stations are not subordinate to Sector commanders. Instead the commanding officer of a Coast Guard Air Station reports to the appropriate District Commander.

Staff elements

On July 23, 2007, the Coast Guard instituted a consolidated acquisition directorate, which handles major systems and future equipment acquisitions. It is the second largest staff element at Coast Guard headquarters. Rear Admiral Gary T. Blore, Assistant Commandant for Acquisition, leads the directorate.

The directorate’s programs include all platforms and mission systems designed to modernize and recapitalize the Coast Guard’s fleet of cutters, boats, aircraft, and information technology assets. Under the new organization, these programs are consolidated from the legacy Coast Guard acquisitions directorate and the Integrated Deepwater System Program. The new directorate also brings together the office of procurement management; the office of research, development and technical management; the Research and Development Center; and the head of contracting.[16]


The Curatorial Services Office (CG-92) is located in Forestville, Maryland which includes the U.S. Coast Guard Exhibit Center.[17]


  2. Flag Officer & Senior Executive Service Member Bios.
  3. "PHOTO RELEASE: New US Coast Guard commandant takes helm". U.S. Coast Guard. Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  4. "U.S. Coast Guard welcomes new vice commandant". Compass. Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  5. "Vice Admiral Michael F. McAllister > United States Coast Guard > Display". Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  6. "Vice Admiral Marshall B. Lytle III > United States Coast Guard > Display". Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  7. "Vice Admiral Scott Buschman > United States Coast Guard > Display". Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  8. {{Cite web|url=
  9. "Superintendent's Biography". USCG Academy Superintendent's Biography. US Coast Guard Academy. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  10. United States Coast Guard. "USCG Rank Insignias." United States Coast Guard. Department of Homeland Security. website. Retrieved on 8 October 2009.
  11. Cornish, Caroline. "Coast Guard Cutter Changes Command". WCSH-TV, Maine. ticle.aspx?storyid=67328, accessed 7-31-07
  12. accessed 09-2-2019.
  13. US Coast Guard Press Release. "Coast Guard establishes new acquisition directorate". July 23, 2007., accessed 7-23-2007.
  14. Curatorial Services Office (CG-92). Retrieved 2010-06-25.
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