Homeland Security, United States Department of

Homeland Security, United States Department of


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a direct outgrowth of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, which highlighted America's vulnerability to terrorism. Initiated by President George W. Bush as the Office of Homeland Security, the DHS became fully operational in 2003. The DHS incorporates several dozen offices and agencies, many of them previously assigned to other departments and some entirely new. They include the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), U.S. Secret Service (USSS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the newly created Transportation Security Administration (TSA). These and many other bureaus would be placed under, or work in tandem with, one of the five DHS directorates—Border and Transportation Security, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Science and Technology, Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, and Management—to fulfill the greater DHS mission of preventing, mitigating, and protecting against terrorism on U.S. soil.

Civil Defense and Homeland Security

Prior to September 11, 2001, what Americans now refer to as "homeland security"—protection of the nation, its people, its land, and its resources from attack—bore a different name: civil defense. The civil defense concept had its origins in World War II, when Americans organized local groups to prepare for and protect against the threat of Axis attack on American shores. This concept carried over into the Cold War, with a few changes; the enemy was now the Soviet Union, and the threat had the dimensions of nuclear annihilation.

In the early 1960s, the heyday of Cold War civil defense efforts, some American families built bomb shelters, and students practiced "duck and cover" maneuvers that would supposedly protect them in the event of a nuclear attack. A decade later, however, with the Cuban Missile

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge addresses the Homeland Security Tech Expo at the Armory in Washington, D.C., in September 2002. Congress later approved President Bush's plan for a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security to fight terrorism. AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS.
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge addresses the Homeland Security Tech Expo at the Armory in Washington, D.C., in September 2002. Congress later approved President Bush's plan for a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security to fight terrorism.

Crisis relegated to history and a new era of U.S.-Soviet détente emerging, use of these measures declined.

The end of the Cold War brought with it new dangers. The enemy was no longer the Soviet Union, a superpower with fairly predictable aims not entirely different from those of the United States. Instead, America faced terrorists whose motives were based upon political and religious zealotry with little regard for international laws, and were therefore more difficult to predict. The reality of the twenty-first century security environment manifested itself on the morning of September 11, 2001.

On October 8, less than four weeks after the attacks, President Bush issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13228 creating the Office of Homeland Security, along with the Homeland Security Council (whose members included the President, Vice President, and several Cabinet-level officials) as an advisory board. The order gave the office's director the title of Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, nomenclature that harkened to the official title of the National Security Advisor—thus highlighting the importance of the homeland security chief.

For the new position, Bush chose former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, who was approved by the Senate in January 2003. Meanwhile, in November 2002, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act, legislation creating a permanent Cabinet-level department. On January 24, 2003, DHS began operation at its new headquarters at a former U.S. Navy facility, the Nebraska Avenue Center in Washington, D.C. Most agencies scheduled for transfer to the new department were officially moved in a special March 1, 2003, ceremony attended by the President.

In his initial proposal for the creation of DHS, President Bush noted that at that time, there were some 100 government agencies involved in emergency response. DHS would greatly streamline those activities; but before that could happen, a great deal of restructuring would have to occur. The initial appropriation request from the president to Congress was for nearly $40 billion, and many pundits judged that with the task before it, the new department would need every penny. The creation of DHS was the most fundamental change in the structure of government since the passage of the National Security Act, which created the Department of Defense in 1947.

DHS was scheduled to absorb 22 agencies from nine different departments (Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Justice, State, Transportation, and Treasury) and two independent offices (FEMA and the General Services Administration, or GSA). With these would come 170,000 government employees, ranging from the men and women of the Coast Guard and Secret Service, to plant and animal health inspectors and computer security specialists.

DHS Framework

DHS has a threefold mission: to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, to reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism, and to minimize the danger from potential attacks and natural disasters. In pursuing this mission, DHS works through its five directorates. In order to create these directorates, DHS established some new offices, but much of its framework came from existing ones, listed by the department from which they came:

Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Plum Island Animal Disease Center.

Commerce: Computer Security Division of the National Institute of Standards & Technology; Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office; National Hazard Information Strategy of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

Defense: National Bio-Weapons Defense Center; National Communications System.

Energy: Environmental Measurements Laboratory; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; National Infrastructure Simulation & Analysis Center; National Nuclear Security Administration; Nuclear Incident Response; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Office of Biological & Environmental Research; Office of Energy Assurance; Office of Security.

Health and Human Services: Metropolitan Medical Response System; National Pharmaceutical Stockpile Program; National Disaster Medical System/Office of Emergency Preparedness; Office of Health and Safety Information System.

Justice: Domestic Emergency Support Team; Executive Office for Immigration Review; INS; National Infrastructure Protection Center (except for the Computer Investigations and Operations Section, which would remain with the Federal Bureau of Investigation); National Domestic Preparedness Office; and Office of Domestic Preparedness.

State: Visa Services.

Transportation: USCG; TSA.

Treasury: Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC); USSS; Customs.

Additionally, DHS incorporated FEMA in its entirety, along with two GSA offices, the Computer Incident Response Center and the Office of Federal Protective Service.

The directorates. By far the largest component of DHS is the Directorate of Border and Transportation Security (BTS), which is responsible for maintaining the security of the nation's borders and transportation systems. BTS accounts for about 58% of DHS employees, along with nearly half of its operating budget, and includes what was formerly TSA, Customs, the border security functions of INS, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and FLETC. Like the other directorates of DHS, it is overseen by an undersecretary of homeland security.

Second in size is the Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR), which includes FEMA and numerous smaller agencies. EPR is charged with ensuring that the nation is prepared for and able to recover from both terrorist attacks and natural disasters. The Directorate of Science and Technology (S&T) is DHS's principal research and development arm. Among the areas of focus for S&T is the range of technology needed to prepare for and respond to terrorist threats involving weapons of mass destruction.

Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection (IAIP) is the directorate concerned with the nation's critical infrastructure, particularly the computer systems that serve as the brain center for a modern industrialized superpower. IAIP brings together a number of specialists capable of identifying and assessing current and future threats to the homeland. Finally, the smallest and least visible directorate is Management, which is concerned with DHS internal affairs, including budget and personnel issues.

Independent agencies. In addition to the directorates, DHS includes a number of agencies that, while in some cases associated with specific directorates, nevertheless have an independent existence. Among these is the Coast Guard, which has a clear function in relation to border security but which, upon declaration of war or specific orders from the president, operates as an element of the Department of Defense. Secret Service is also an independent agency within DHS.

Other independent agencies include ones that did not exist as such prior to the establishment of DHS. These include the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, which assists the BTS directorate by easing the transition of immigrants to U.S. citizenship; the Office of State and Local Government Coordination; the Office of Private Sector Liaison, which works to foster dialogue between DHS and the business community; and the Office of Inspector General, an independent body responsible for inspection, auditing, and investigating charges of fraud, abuse, mismanagement, and waste.

DHS in action. Americans are likely to be most familiar with the DHS advisory system, whereby colors are equated with levels of threat. Green indicates low threat, and blue a "guarded condition" in which there is a general risk of terrorist attacks.

From the time the system was instituted through the spring of 2003, as the United States waged its military campaign in Iraq, the alert level never dipped below yellow, for "elevated condition," indicating a significant risk of terrorist attacks. On a few occasions it went above yellow and into orange, indicating a high threat of terrorist attacks. During that period, the threat level did not spike above orange to the most severe of conditions, red, though that color would have been used if the color-coded system had been in place at the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

On February 7, 2003, concerns about terrorist threats associated with an Islamic holiday caused a raise of the threat level to orange. Ridge encouraged Americans to stock up on food and water, as well as plastic sheeting and duct tape for sealing doors and windows. Ridge was criticized for what some observers described as scare mongering. On February 27, the threat level indicator again returned to yellow. When Ridge hiked it to orange again on March 18, 2003, at the beginning of the war with Iraq, such specific recommendations were not included with the warning; instead it was simply noted for Americans to be vigilant for multiple attempted attacks.

Mayors and governors commented on the fact that, while the DHS called upon cities and states to take extra preparedness measures, it did not provide adequate additional federal funding for such measures. In early April 2003, DHS announced that seven major cities would receive a total of $100 million to increase anti-terror security efforts.



Houston, Betsy. "Science and Technology Is Prominent in the Department of Homeland Security." JOM 55, no. 1 (January 2003): 9.

Hughes, David. "Homeland Security Dept.: So Many Details, So Little Time." Aviation Week & Space Technology 157, no. 23 (December 2, 2002): 71.

——. "Homeland Security Dept.: Is $36.2 Billion Enough?" Aviation Week & Space Technology 158, no. 7 (February 17, 2003): 57–58.

Huleatt, Richard S. "Computer Supersnoop: The New Department of Homeland Security." Information Intelligence Online Newsletter 23, no. 12 (December 2002): 2–4.

Inchniowski, Tom. "Ridge Will Face Big Challenges as Homeland Security Leader." ENR 250, no. 3 (January 27, 2003): 9.

Miller, Bill. "National Alert System Defines Five Shades of Terrorist Threat." Washington Post. (March 13, 2002): A15.

"The New Department of Homeland Security." Chemical Engineering Progress 99, no. 2 (February 2003): 25.

"U.S. Homeland Security: Behind the Curve in Funding and Commitment." Aviation Week & Space Technology 158, no. 9 (March 3, 2003): 66.

Waugh, William L., Jr., and Richard T. Sykes. "Organizing the War on Terrorism." Public Administration Review 62, special issue (September 2002): 145–153.


The American Civil Defense Association. < http://www.tacda.org/ > (April 11, 2003).

Department of Homeland Security Reorganization. C-SPAN. < http://www.c-span.org/homelandsecurity/chart.asp > (April 11, 2003).

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. < http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/ > (April 10, 2003).


Air Marshals, United States
Aviation Security Screeners, United States
Bush Administration (2001–), United States National Security Policy
Civil Aviation Security, United States
Coast Guard (USCG), United States
Communications System, United States National
Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office (CIAO), United States
DOE (United States Department of Energy)
Domestic Emergency Support Team, United States
Domestic Preparedness Office (NDPO), United States National
Federal Protective Service, United States
FEMA (United States Federal Emergency Management Agency)
General Services Administration, United States
Health and Human Services Department, United States
Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), United States National
INS (United States Immigration and Naturalization Service)
Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), United States Federal
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)
NNSA (United States National Nuclear Security Administration)
NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration)
NSC (National Security Council)
NIST Computer Security Division, United States
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
Plum Island Animal Disease Center
Secret Service, United States
September 11 Terrorist Attacks on the United States
Transportation Department, United States

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