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The Office of Homeland Security (DHS) in the White House was created on 22nd September 2001. This was eleven days after the September 11 attacks in the country, making it the youngest cabinet. The main duty of the office was to safeguard the country against terrorism and respond to any future attacks through a comprehensive national strategy. In November 2001, the office became a stand-alone, much more effective department after enactment of the Homeland Security Act by Congress. This enabled coordination and unity of homeland security efforts. This involved the integration of 22 different federal departments and agencies (Department of Homeland Security, 2017).
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The department consists of several federal departments including; United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, United States Customs and Border Protection, United States Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Law Enforcement Training Centre, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Transportation Security Administration, United States Secret Service, Directorate for Management, National Protection and Programs Directorate, Science and Technology Directorate, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, Office of Health Affairs, Office of Intelligence and Analysis and Office of Operations Coordination which make up operational and support components (Department of Homeland Security, 2017).
Advisory groups include the Homeland Security Council, the National Infrastrusture Advixory Council, Homeland Security Science and Technology Advisory Committee, Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council, and Task Force on New Americans. The agency executives are the Secretary, currently Elaine Duke, the deputy Secretary, the Chief of Staff, the Executive Secretary, the General Counsel and the Military Advisor. The department had its temporary headquarters in Nebraska Avenue Complex in Washington, D. C. Plans are underway to move to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital Campus in Anacostia, Washington D. C.
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The DHS aims to safeguard the America –the people, country and values with honor and integrity. To protect the country from terrorist threats, a vast man power of more than dedicated 240, 000 employees is needed, thus the third largest cabinet after the Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs. The employees have varied skill set in different departments including anti-terrorism, border security, cyber security, customs and immigration, and disaster management and prevention.
Generally, DHS prevents physical, biological or chemical terrorist attacks, reduces vulnerability of attacks, minimizes damage, and assists in the recovery of domestic disasters as well as terrorist attacks. The department underwent modifications of its operation’s policies and structures. About 250 members, action teams, public and private partners at all levels developed a Six Point Agenda of the department. In the event of catastrophes, DHS increases overall preparedness, creates better transportation system to navigate efficiently, strengthen border security, and enhance sharing of information and data. The changes also improved DHS financial management, human resource development and information technology in addition to realigning the department’s organization to maximize on performance.
Disaster preparedness and response is facilitated by the ready campaign which empowers citizens to respond to disasters, and the National Incident Management System that provides a suitable management approach to governments at all levels. The National Response Framework and the Surge Capacity Force work to align and unify federal structures, and respond to disasters respectively.
DHS serves the basic department liaison to law enforcement of the state, local, tribal and territorial and advices the Secretary on issues and concerns. It keeps the law enforcement community updated on the activities and initiatives such as ‘If you see something, say something’, the ‘Blue Campaign’ and efforts in countering violent extremism. DHS identifies and responds to challenges faced by law enforcement that affects homeland security. It coordinates with the Office of Intelligence Analysis to ensure timely coordination and distribution of intelligence and strategic information to law enforcement. It is also the responsibility of the department to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure that terrorism focused grants and law enforcement are used appropriately on prevention of terrorism (Department of Homeland Security, 2017).
Enabling legislation and law enforcement agencies
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 was signed into law following the terrorist attacks on September 11. The Act formed the basis of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The document is divided into 17 titles which are subdivided into several other sections. The Act documented under Public law, mandates DHS to prevent terrorist attacks in the country. DHS is mainly involved in the analytical and advisory activities in intelligence. Funding provisions of the DHS is facilitated by the Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2004.
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Under the Homeland Security Act, within the Department of Homeland Security, the Directorate for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection was established. It is headed by the Under Secretary for Information analysis and Infrastructure protection. The Information Analysis and Infrastructure Act of 2002 and the Cyber Security Enhancement Act 2002 have been used to collect and conduct analysis of information pertaining law enforcement, intelligence, and government agencies in a bid to prevent terrorism.
The Security Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006 passed by Congress. It allowed the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and transferred the Radiological Preparedness Program and the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program to FEMA thus completing its reorganization. The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act enacted under Public Law on August 2007. The Act was founded on the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006. The intelligence operations of the DHS was reorganized by raising the Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis to the Under Secretary level.
Department of Homeland Security and Law enforcement agencies partnership
The Department of Home Security and law enforcement agencies at the State, local, tribal and territorial levels work together to protect the country against terrorism. The law enforcement agencies are the first in contact with potential terrorist attacks or attackers. DHS provides training, technical assistance and funding to prepare for and respond to disasters (Reese, 2009). Training has increased the expertise and capacity of the law enforcement agencies. It has improved sharing of information to the other entities and has strengthened analytical capabilities to enhance awareness of emerging threats. This partnership has improved the capability to detect and prevent terrorist attacks.
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The Department of Homeland Security is fundamental to the protection of United States against terrorist attacks. The department makes the country safer by proper organization and reduction of redundant spending that was in the former security structure. The department aims to make the country safer through information sharing, intelligence and preparedness. The recent years has seen great strides in fighting emerging attacks in technology. –cyber terrorism. There are also initiative and programs put in place to monitor biological, similar to anthrax mailings post 9/11, chemical, radiological and nuclear attacks.
The agency is somewhat effective in protecting the country. Since its inception, the department not only protects the country from terrorist attacks but also natural disasters such as hurricanes. It has enabled prompt response to disasters through disaster management and preparedness. However, the department faces financial challenges that need to be addressed. The annual budget stands at 40.6 billion dollars yet the amount cannot be equated to the effort in making the country safer. The top missions are faced with a string of failures, corruption and lack of transparency. Critics have also highlighted its failure particularly in cyber security.
To curb this issue, there needs to be accountability and transparency for spending in the department. An overview needs to be conducted to measure spending taxpayer funds, compliance, effectiveness and overall programs operations. Corrupt officials should investigated and prosecuted within the constraints of the law. The programs put in place to create standards for security of chemical facilities at risk of terrorist attacks should be inspected. Law enforcement agencies need to undergo comprehensive training on terrorist attacks. The department has intercepted several thousand attacks and gives thousands of Americans. Therefore, providing solutions to the issues would be better rather than doing away with the department.
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- Creation of the Department of Homeland Security | Homeland Security. (2017).
- Operational and Support Components | Homeland Security. (2017).
- Reese, S. (2009). Department of Homeland Security Assistance to States and Localities: A Summary and Issues for the 111th Congress. Congressional Research Service.
- United States Department of Homeland Security handbook. (2009). Washington, DC.