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Flag of the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard
The Commandant of the United States Coast Guard is the highest ranking member of the United States Coast Guard. He is the only four-star Admiral of the Coast Guard, and is appointed for a four year term by the President of the United States upon confirmation by the United States Senate. He is assisted by a Vice-Commandant, two Assistant Commandants/Area Commanders and a Chief of Staff, all of whom are three-star Vice Admiral.

Unlike the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard Commandant is not a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; he is, however, entitled to the same supplemental pay as the Joint Chiefs, per 37 U.S.C ยง 414(a)(5) ($4,000 per annum in 2009), and is accorded privilege of the floor under Senate Rule XXIII(1) as a de facto JCS member during Presidential addresses. Furthermore, in contrast to the Joint Chiefs who are not in the military's operational chain of command, the Commandant of the Coast Guard commands his service. He reports to the President, under the Secretary of Homeland Security. Prior to the creation of the Department of Homeland Securitymarker in 2003, the Coast Guard Commandant reported to the Secretary of Transportation.

Evolution of the rank and title

The title of Commandant dates to a 1923 act that distributed the commissioned line and engineer officers of the Coast Guard in grades. Before 1923, the rank and title of the head of the Coast Guard was "captain-commandant." The rank "captain-commandant" originated in the Revenue Cutter Service in 1908. The original holder of that rank was the Chief of the Revenue Cutter Service (also known as the Revenue Marine). The Coast Guard traces the lineage of Commandants back to Captain Leonard G. Shepard, chief of the Revenue Marine Bureau, even though he never officially received the title of Captain-Commandant. The Captain-Commandant position was created in 1908 when Captain Worth G. Ross was the first to actually hold the position. Although he was retired, Captain Charles F. Shoemaker was elevated to the rank of Captain-Commandant. Captain Shepard had already died and was not elevated to the rank.

Chiefs of the Revenue Marine Bureau

Chiefs exercised centralized control over the Revenue Marine Bureau.

  • Captain Alexander V. Fraser, USRM, 1843-1848

  • Captain Richard Evans, USRM, 1848-1849

In 1849 the Revenue Marine Bureau was dissolved, and the Revenue Marine fell under the control the Commissioner of Customs until the Revenue Marine Bureau was again established in 1869.

  • N. Broughton Devereux, 1869-1871

  • Ezra Clark, 1878-1885

  • Peter Bonnett, 1885-1889


Revenue Cutter Service

1. Captain Leonard G. Shepard (1889-1895)

2. Captain Charles F. Shoemaker (1895-1905) (promoted, in retirement, to Captain-Commandant in 1908)

3. Captain-Commandant Worth G. Ross (1905-1911) (promoted, on active duty, to Captain-Commandant in 1908)

4. Captain-Commandant Ellsworth P. Bertholf (1911-1915)

United States Coast Guard

5. Rear Admiral William E. Reynolds (1919-1924)

6. Rear Admiral Frederick C. Billard (1924-1932)

7. Rear Admiral Harry G. Hamlet (1932-1936)

8. Admiral Russell R. Waesche (1936-1946)

9. Admiral Joseph F. Farley (1946-1949)

10. Vice Admiral Merlin O'Neill (1949-1954)

11. Admiral Alfred C. Richmond (1954-1962)

12. Admiral Edwin J. Roland (1962-1966)

13. Admiral Willard J. Smith (1966-1970)

14. Admiral Chester R. Bender (1970-1974)

15. Admiral Owen W. Siler (1974-1978)

16. Admiral John B. Hayes (1978-1982)

17. Admiral James S. Gracey (1982-1986)

18. Admiral Paul A. Yost, Jr. (1986-1990)

19. Admiral J. William Kime (1990-1994)

20. Admiral Robert E. Kramek (1994-1998)

21. Admiral James Loy (1998-2002)

22. Admiral Thomas H. Collins (2002-2006)

23. Admiral Thad W. Allen (2006-present)


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