Coast Guard Annual Personnel Strength, 1947-2012


Click to enlarge or see the pdf directly.

An interesting chart showing the strength of various components of the Coast Guard’s personnel strength from the bottom of the post-WWII demobilization through FY2012.

In interpreting the chart, note that there are two different vertical axis scales.

A few things seem to stand out.

1. The Coast Guard has not been shrinking. There have been ups and downs but the size of the service is at or near an all time high. It is a little more than twice as large as it was in 1947, but to put that into perspective, the US population has also a bit more than doubled, so the number of Coasties as a percentage of the population is about the same, but not as high as it has been.

2. There was a dip in the number of auxiliarists about ten years ago, but this may be recovering.

3. Recently there has been a notable rise in the number of permanent civilian staff. Could these be (CG-9) Acquisitions staff?

4. The ratio of officers (O-1 and above) to enlisted has shown a steady rise. Where previously there were about one officer for seven or eight enlisted, there are now about one for six. Frankly this is not as much of a change as I thought it might have been.

We should stop saying the Coast Guard is smaller than the New York City Police Department. It is no longer true.

What we can say is, that the Coast Guard is, in terms of personnel, larger than the French Navy or Britain’s Royal Navy or any NATO navy, other than that of the US or Turkey.

I think it would also be true to say, that we have the oldest fleet, and not by just a little bit.


7 thoughts on “Coast Guard Annual Personnel Strength, 1947-2012

  1. In 1790, the ratio of officers to “enlisted” (actually hired) was 1:3. This has been a fairly constant to the present. The 19th century law designating the number of authorized officers depended upon the number of cutters in service. This changed slightly with the adoption of steam vessels, however, Engineers were not considered Line officers but in a separate category.

    Interestingly, in the 1960s hearings to justify more officers, the Coast Guard claimed that the enlisted force would grow to 85,000. Of course, this was a pipe dream but the officer corps took a pretty large leap forward in numbers.. A better way to evaluate would be to compare growth numbers to the additions of legislated tasks and staff positions.

    One year the officer corps got an ’emergency’ bump in numbers when it was found out that an entire graduated CGA class would have to be discharged at graduation because there they would have put the Coast Guard over the authorized number. If I recall correctly, the Coast Guard was given 1,000 more – well above the graduating numbers.

    Numbers and charts are just statistics. The truth is in the narrative and history.

  2. I always find the USCG Aux of interest when I come across it mainly because we don’t have an equivalent here in the UK. The UK’s RNR is quite specialised now and doesn’t have it own vessels any more. (You would think an RCN like model would be in place but no. No threat apparently…) The Royal Navy Auxiliary Service was done away with at the end of the Cold War; their job was to disperse merchantmen to safe ports in periods of high tension. Not to be confused with the now defunct Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service which was the organisation that operated tugs, lighters, some not all range craft, and some research vessels for the RN and MoD. Or the Royal Fleet Auxiliary which operates ships giving logistical support primarily to the RN.

    For an island nation we don’t really take maritime security that seriously. I think volunteers would present themselves if the RNR regained a sea going role in UK waters.

    My favourite “civilian’s navy” is the Danish Naval Homeguard. No pay. All done for the love of their country.

  3. Pingback: Thoughts on State of the CG, 2016 | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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