As with many obsolete Coast Guard ratings, determining precisely when the Data Processing Technician (DP) rating was introduced is extremely difficult. For example, a Department of Veterans Affairs’ document titled U.S. Coast Guard Enlisted Rates & Ratings published on the official Coast Guard Web site gives the less-than-helpful date of “1970s.”

A more detailed examination of rates also found on the site, 1915-2011: U.S. Coast Guard Enlisted Ratings, Rating Specialty Marks & Distinguishing Marks by retired CWO Dana Lewis, claims that the rating’s genesis was as Machine Accountant in 1971, which was changed to Data Processing Technician in 1973. This is partially corroborated by the 1967 Enlisted Ratings Qualification Manual, updated in 1971, which lists Machine Accountant as a Service Rating classified in Group IV, Administrative and Clerical—but one of the 1971 updates in the same manual also lists Data Processing Technician as a Service Rating with its own distinctive path of advancement.

What seems most likely is that the Coast Guard established the rating in 1971 as Data Processing Technician in addition to Machine Accountant, rather than replacing it. In either case, Coast Guard Personnel serving as DPs were merged into the Telecommunications Specialist (TC) rating in 1999, and just four years later the TC rating was disestablished and its duties merged into those of Operations Specialists. This mirrored the Navy’s decision to merge its DP Sailors into the Radioman rating in 1998.

Machine accounting and data processing arose as a way to automate tedious calculations; originally incorporated to quickly determine missile trajectories, the same technology could be easily applied to a host of other disciplines that required storage or large amounts of data and a means to manipulate that data to create estimates and projections. The explosive growth in personal computers in the civilian sector spurred the development of applications such as digital databases and spreadsheets that made it possible for even computer greenhorns to perform many functions that previously could be handled only by DPs. As communications and data began to merge in the 1990s, it became clear that at some point that several of the Coast Guard’s ratings would need to merged to eliminate duplicate work and effort, and thus the decision to fold the duties of DP Technicians into the Telecommunications rating and it into the Operations Specialist field.

Related Items
Telecommunications Specialist Rating Badge
Operations Specialist Rating Badge

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