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Legal Department

Herman H. Tietjen, DSO-LP

Telephone: (845) 876-7066

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Memorandum of Agreement or Understanding

The Coast Guard Auxiliary, from time to time, enters into agreements with private outside organizations or governmental entities in respect to providing joint or cooperative services to members of the public or in controlling relationships between the parties. These agreements may affect local Auxiliary activities in respect to these organizations or governmental entities. It is important to understand the difference between a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). A general discussion of the entire topic can be found in Commandant Instruction 5216.18.

An MOU is defined as a writing "that describes a very broad concept of mutual understanding, goals, and plans shared by the parties.

An MOA is defined as a writing "describing in detail the specific responsibilities of, and actions to be taken by, each of the parties so that their goals may be accomplished." In addition, an MOA can contain a statement indicating the goals of the parties in order to provide an explanation of their actions and responsibilities.

An MOA or MOU represents one legal element in the formulation of relationships between the Coast Guard and its units and other parties. The MOA/MOU does not diminish the need for additional contracts, documents, or agreements to execute the activities of the various parties. Every MOA/MOU must be consistent with and not in violation of Coast Guard regulation and budgetary and funding constraints. Any MOA/MOU must be grounded in a regulation, directive, or federal statute. The document itself does not constitute a primary authority for the parties to engage in the contemplated activities.

No MOA or MOU may contain any provision or agreement for the Coast Guard Auxiliary to assume financial, legal, or other liabilities on behalf of another party nor provide indemnity to any other party absent specific federal statutory authorization. The Anti-Deficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. 1341(a)(1)(A) and 1341(a)(1)(B) prohibits all officers and employees of the United States, which includes the Auxiliary and its members, from making or authorizing expenditures or obligations exceeding appropriated funding and from obligating payment of money before it is appropriated.

MOA/MOU and the Auxiliary

  • Auxiliary activities with outside parties can be the subject of an MOU or MOA where the arrangement may be complex or cover a span of time. A written agreement is best in order to avoid misunderstandings during the participation process and also clearly sets forth the expectations of the parties.
  • Any MOA or MOU generated at any District unit level of the Auxiliary must be approved by the District's DSO-LP. If on the National level, it must be approved by the Chief Legal Counsel.
  • It is important to involve the DSO-LP throughout the negotiation and drafting process. This involvement will avoid the need to redo or change agreements made by the respective negotiators at a time when the document is reviewed by the DSO-LP.
  • Flotilla Commanders, Division Commanders, and the District Commodore are the only individuals empowered to sign an agreement involving their unit of administration. It is important that the Flotilla Commanders and Division commanders keep the District Commodore advised of any agreements that they are negotiating. This is especially true if a proposed agreement has any District impact which may also require approval of the District Commodore.
  • The MOU/MOA is not used in connection with the use or renting of real property. Where the use of real property is involved, a written license agreement is the required document. Refer to the License Agreements page which addresses the use and form of a license agreement.

MOA / MOU Documents and Links