Angus Phillips said the U.S. Coast Guard's mandate to help mariners in distress was "eliminated" in the 1980s ["Has the Code of the Mariner Become Ancient History?" Sports, July 25]. That's wrong.

The Coast Guard will respond to every distress call it receives, whether by dispatching its own assets or by coordinating a response with others.

In 1982 Congress directed the Coast Guard to review its search-and-rescue policies for the towing and salvage of disabled vessels out of concern that Coast Guard resources were being used unnecessarily to provide non-emergency assistance that could be performed by the private sector.

The Coast Guard's primary concern in any search-and-rescue effort is timely and effective assistance. In some instances, a boater's situation is not one of distress, and other resources, including commercial towing companies, can provide aid. We must manage our resources wisely to effectively serve both the boating public and the American taxpayer.

The Coast Guard saved more than 5,000 lives and assisted more than 36,000 mariners last year alone. It has a long, proud history as a life-saving service, and it always will render aid to mariners in distress.

DENNIS SIROIS

Assistant Commandant for Operations

U.S. Coast Guard

Washington