Protecting the United States - Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security

In 2003, in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, several government agencies were split up and recombined to form the Department of Homeland Security. This was done to clear up confusion between agencies and have one department concentrate its efforts on its most important goal, keeping America safe. The DHS employs over 225,000 people across the country in jobs that range from securing our borders and airports, to providing response in emergency situations. No other country as of yet has a Department of Homeland Security.

Click here to read the full, original Department of Homeland Security proposal by George W. Bush from June 2002.

To ensure the DHS runs smoothly and to the best of its ability, Secretary Chertoff in July 2005 declared the department’s six-point agenda. This agenda included:

  1. Increase overall preparedness, particularly for catastrophic events
  2. Create better transportation security systems to move people and cargo more securely and efficiently
  3. Strengthen border security and interior enforcement and reform immigration processes;
  4. Enhance information sharing with our partners
  5. Improve DHS financial management, human resource development, procurement and information technology
  6. Realign the DHS organization to maximize mission performance.

The DHS again went through changes after Hurricane Katrina. Former President Bush signed the Post-Katrina Emergency Reform Act on Oct. 4, 2006, which established new leadership positions within the DHS, created and reallocated functions within the DHS, gave the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) more functions, and amended the Homeland Security Act for better organization and function.

The DHS celebrated its five year anniversary in 2008.

Current and Former Secretaries of Homeland Security

Tom Ridge, January 24, 2003 – February 1, 2005
Michael Chertoff, February 15, 2005 – January 21, 2009
Janet Napolitano, January 21, 2009 – Present

Our National Efforts to Secure the Homeland

The strategy provides a common framework through which our entire Nation – Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments, the private and non-profit sectors, communities, and individual citizens – should focus its homeland security efforts on the following four goals:

  1. Prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks. To prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks in the United States, we are working to deny terrorists and terrorist-related weapons and materials entry into our country and across all international borders, disrupt terrorists' ability to operate within our borders, and prevent the emergence of violent Islamic radicalization in order to deny terrorists future recruits and to defeat homegrown extremism.
  2. Protect the American people, our critical infrastructure, and key resources. To protect the lives and livelihoods of the American people, we must undertake measures to deter the threat of terrorism, mitigate the Nation's vulnerability to acts of terror and the full range of man-made and natural catastrophes, and minimize the consequences of an attack or disaster should it occur.
  3. Respond to and recover from incidents that do occur. To save lives, mitigate suffering, and protect property in future catastrophes, we must strengthen the foundation of an effective, coordinated response. This includes clarifying roles and responsibilities across all levels of government and the private and non-profit sectors. We must also focus on ensuring we have the operational capabilities and flexibility necessary to facilitate both short-term recovery and an effective transition to long-term rebuilding and revitalization efforts.
  4. Continue to strengthen the foundation to ensure our long-term success. To fulfill these responsibilities over the long term, we will continue to strengthen the principles, systems, structures, and institutions that cut across the homeland security enterprise and support our activities to secure the Homeland. Ultimately, this will help ensure the success of our Strategy to secure the Nation. This includes:
    • Applying a comprehensive approach to risk management. We must apply a risk-based framework across all homeland security efforts in order to identify and assess potential hazards (including their downstream effects), determine what levels of relative risk are acceptable, and prioritize and allocate resources among all homeland security partners, both public and private, to prevent, protect against, and respond to and recover from all manner of incidents.
    • Building a Culture of Preparedness. Our entire Nation shares common responsibilities in homeland security. In order to help prepare the Nation to carry out these responsibilities, we will continue to foster a Culture of Preparedness that permeates all levels of society – from individual citizens, businesses, and non-profit organizations to Federal, State, local, and Tribal government officials and authorities.
    • Developing a comprehensive Homeland Security Management System. In order to continue strengthening the foundations of a prepared Nation, we will establish and institutionalize a comprehensive Homeland Security Management System that incorporates all stakeholders. This system involves a continuous, mutually reinforcing cycle of activity across four phases – guidance; planning; execution; and assessment and evaluation.
      • Relevant departments and agencies of the Federal government must take the lead in implementing this system, and State, local, and Tribal governments are highly encouraged to ultimately adopt fully compatible and complementary processes and practices as part of a full-scale national effort.
      • In order to ensure the success of this system, our Nation must further develop a community of homeland security professionals by establishing multidisciplinary education opportunities. In addition to covering homeland and relevant national security issues, this education should include an understanding and appreciation of appropriate regions, religions, cultures, legal systems, and languages. We also must continue to develop interagency and intergovernmental assignments and fellowship opportunities, tying them to promotions and professional advancement
    • Improving incident management. We must develop a comprehensive approach to incident management that will help Federal, State, local, and Tribal authorities manage incidents across our goals of prevention, protection, and response and recovery. Our approach will build upon the existing National Incident Management System (NIMS) and help decision-making during crisis and periods of heightened concern.
    • Better utilizing science and technology. The United States derives much of its strength from its advantage in science and technology, and we must continue to use this advantage and encourage innovative research and development to assist in protecting and defending against the range of natural and man-made threats confronting the Homeland.
    • Using all instruments of national power and influence. The United States is using its instruments of national power and influence – diplomatic, information, military, economic, financial, intelligence, and law enforcement – to prevent terrorism, protect the lives and livelihoods of the American people, and respond to and recover from incidents. We must build on these efforts, by continuing to enhance our processes for sharing all relevant and appropriate information throughout all levels of government and with our partners, and by prioritizing the continued transformation of our law enforcement and military.

Progress Made Securing The Homeland

Since September 11, we have made extraordinary progress in securing our Homeland and fighting the War on Terror. We have:

  • Disrupted multiple potentially deadly plots against the United States. We have greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts since 9/11, which has constrained the ability of al-Qaeda to attack the Homeland and led terrorist groups to find that the United States is a harder target to strike.
  • Strengthened our ability to protect the American people by creating the Department of Homeland Security. We have also enhanced our homeland security and counterterrorism architecture through the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Homeland Security Council, the National Counterterrorism Center, and U.S. Northern Command, a Department of Defense combatant command focused on homeland defense and civil support.
  • Made our borders more secure. We are implementing an effective system of layered defense by strengthening the screening of people and goods overseas and by tracking and disrupting the international travel of terrorists.
  • Instituted an active, multi-layered approach to that integrates the capabilities of Tribal, local, State and Federal governments, as well as those of the private and non-profit sectors. In addition, Federal grant funding and technical assistance has also enhanced State, local and Tribal homeland security training and equipment, emergency management capabilities, and the interoperability of communications.
  • Worked with Congress to create, implement, and renew key legal reforms. The USA PATRIOT Act, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, and the Protect America Act of 2007 promote security and help to implement 9/11 Commission and WMD Commission recommendations, while protecting our fundamental liberties.

The Obama Administration

Upon taking office, President Obama and his administration made the following changes to Homeland Security:

The Obama Administration has pledged to support counterterrorism by:

  • Proposing that $5 billion be provided to assist the Shared Security Partnership over the next several years to enhance the ability of our partners to improve their own security and work with us to defeat terrorism worldwide.

  • Reducing the risk to bio and nuclear threats by
    • Ensuring that decision-makers have the tools they need to manage disease outbreaks by linking health care providers, hospitals, and public health agencies. By building on America's unparalleled talent and through international partnerships, we can create new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests, and manufacture them more quickly and efficiently.
    • Strengthening our nuclear security by enhancing our nuclear detection architecture and ensuring that our own nuclear materials are secure. By establishing well-planned, well-rehearsed, plans for coordinated response, we will also ensure a capability that can dramatically diminish the consequences of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents.
  • Gathering, analyzing, and effectively sharing intelligence. In order to prevent threats, including those from terrorism, we will strengthen intelligence collection to identify and interdict those who intend to do us harm. The information we collect must be analyzed as well as shared, and we must invest in our analytic capabilities and our capacity to share intelligence across all levels of government.
  • Securing our global digital information and communications infrastructure.
  • Ensuring the resilience of our physical and social. Working with the private sector and government partners at all levels will develop an effective, holistic, critical infrastructure protection and resiliency plan that centers on investments in business, technology, civil society, government, and education. We will invest in our Nation's most pressing short and long-term infrastructure needs, including modernizing our electrical grid; upgrading our highway, rail, maritime, and aviation infrastructure; enhancing security within our chemical and nuclear sectors; and safeguarding the public transportation systems that Americans use every day.
  • Taking a comprehensive approach to securing our borders, including working with international partners, state and local governments, and the private sector. The President supports efforts to develop and deploy technology to maximize port security without causing economic disruption, and enhancing the security of key transportation networks—including surface, air, and maritime networks—that connect our nation and the world. However, we must also work to address issues such as immigration that are directly related to our ability to effectively secure our borders.
  • Improve coordination and to actively listen to the concerns and priorities at all levels of government to ensure effective incident management. In doing so, we can create better evacuation planning guidelines, increase medical surge capacity, and increase Federal resources and logistics to better support local emergency planning efforts. Additionally, we will develop detailed interagency contingency plans for high-risk attack and disaster scenarios and test these plans through realistic exercises. Finally, we support efforts to provide greater technical assistance to local and state first responders and dramatically increase funding for reliable, interoperable communications systems.

More Information on Homeland Security

Homeland Security Advisory System – Current threat level, creating an emergency preparedness kit and an emergency plan for you and your family. – Prepare, plan, stay informed.

Information for Citizens from the DHS.

The Leadership Journal - A forum for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and key DHS officials to share news and insight. It brings you closer to the people and policies working to keep our nation secure.

The Blog @ Homeland Security - The Blog @ Homeland Security provides an inside-out view of what we do every day at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

DHS on Twitter

Information Courtesy of:
The White House – Issues – Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security