JULY 28, 2022 – The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) is proud to join the U.S. Coast Guard in observing its 232nd birthday on Aug. 4.
“At DeCA we salute the Coast Guard’s 232 years of service by delivering a commissary benefit that provides valuable savings to Coast Guardsmen, retirees and family members,” said Marine Sgt. Maj. Michael R. Saucedo, senior enlisted advisor to the DeCA director. “The benefit is a significant boost, especially now during these inflationary times, for many of our eligible shoppers who depend on it to help keep their financial heads above water.”
The Revenue Cutter Service was created on Aug. 4, 1790, when the first Congress authorized the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, to construct 10 vessels known as “revenue cutters” to combat smuggling and enforce the tariff laws. Today, Hamilton is considered the father of the Coast Guard.
In 1793, the first anti-piracy action took place when the cutter, Diligence, ran a pirate vessel ashore in the Chesapeake Bay. From that point, revenue cutters were charged with helping to suppress pirates.
On Jan. 28, 1915, the Coast Guard was born with the merger of the Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Life-Saving Service. Nearly a quarter century later, the U.S. Lighthouse Service also merged into the Coast Guard, and in 1946, Congress transferred the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation into the Guard.
In 1967, the Coast Guard moved under the direction of the Department of Transportation, and on March 1, 2003, the Guard became part of the Department of Homeland Security.
During time of war, or when the president of the United States or Congress directs, the Coast Guard becomes part of the Department of Defense and falls under the Department of the Navy. Because the Coast Guard is charged with enforcing a range of domestic laws as well as discharging a range of other military duties, it is exempt from the Posse Comitatus Act which bars other services from domestic law enforcement duties.
The Coast Guard has served in all of the United States’ major conflicts including Afghanistan and Iraq. In a typical year, the Coast Guard responds to around 20,000 search and rescue cases and saves more than 3,000 lives.
With its small force of around 41,000 active duty personnel and over 8,000 reserve personnel, the Coast Guard has never operated a large number of commissaries; in fact, most of them have been located inside their base exchange stores. In the early 1980s, the Coast Guard operated 15 commissaries, 11 of which served Atlantic Coast personnel, two served Pacific personnel and the remaining two operated near the Great Lakes area.
In 1990, Congress and the Department of Defense (DOD) decided to consolidate the individual service commissary systems into one agency, which became the Defense Commissary Agency on Oct. 1, 1991. This action brought all 411 service-connected stores under DOD control.
DeCA assumed control of the Coast Guard’s Governor’s Island Commissary, located south of Manhattan on the approach to New York Harbor, as well as the Kodiak, Alaska, store in the Aleutian Islands.
Governor’s Island closed down as a result of the Base Alignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) in 1996, leaving Kodiak Island as the sole commissary serving a Coast Guard installation. Coast Guardsmen and their families can access their benefit at any commissary.
Commissaries continue to save Coast Guardsmen and their families thousands of dollars annually on their purchases in comparison to similar products at commercial stores.
“As the Coast Guard continues to build on its legacy, we will keep providing them a commissary benefit that gives them value and convenience, while delivering superior customer service and the items they want at the best possible savings,” Saucedo said. “DeCA is committed to being THE grocery provider of choice for Coast Guardsmen and all our eligible patrons – sailors, airmen, Marines, Space Force Guardians and soldiers – delivering an exclusive benefit they’ve earned.”
About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit, saving authorized patrons thousands of dollars annually on their purchases compared to similar products at commercial retailers. The discounted prices include a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America’s military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.
NOTE: To see a DeCA video tribute to the Coast Guard’s 232nd birthday, click https://vimeo.com/730994300/2604d8df1d.
By Tamara Eastman, DeCA historian
Defense Commissary Agency