This award is the unit equivalent of the Secretary of Transportation Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement. On November 3, 1994, Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena awarded the Department of Transportation Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement to the Coast Guard as a whole. The actual medal was mounted on a plaque and presented to Admiral Robert E. Kramek, Commandant of the Coast Guard.
In order to provide members of the Coast Guard with a device denoting this award, the Secretary of Transportation Outstanding Unit Award was created. This award consists of the ribbon only to the Secretary of Transportation Gold Medal, mounted in a gold frame.