The US Department of Homeland Security

Subject: Law
Pages: 10
Words: 2950
Reading time:
10 min
Study level: Undergraduate


Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has two cardinal roles of ensuring security of the people of United States from external aggression of terrorists and other enemies who perceive America as their adversaries. The other role of DHS is disaster management and ensuring rapid response to natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and typhoons that are inherent in the American region (Koestler-Grack, 2007). As other departments DHS has strategic plans that enable it to evaluate its progress and effectiveness in delivering services to the citizens. Performance of DHS has been tested during the many disasters that have befallen US like Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 terrorist attack. Being on receiving edge, DHS was tested and its performance and response to these unfortunate events was paramount.

Overcoming the emotional trauma from these events tested the resilience of the American people who have worked tirelessly to remain the coveted country in the world. However, this dalliance has come with its challenges with many illegal immigrants using every possible opportunity to gain entry to the US. Despite the challenges that security of the states and its citizens face, DHS has remained focused to ensuring the security of the people while ensuring strength of the economy and maintaining the leading edge in the world arena. As a department it has been able to deal with disasters and protect the American citizens since its inception.

With its all encompassing vision, “A secure America, a confident public, and a strong and resilient society and economy,” DHS has remained true to this vision while trying to learn from the many challenges the department face in delivering the services to the people of America in the ever changing political and economic environment.

DHS is among the largest departments in the US coming in the same level as the Department of Defense and Department of Veteran Affairs. DHS is coordinated and managed by the Homeland Security Council from White House under close watch of the President of United States. With the mission statement, “We will lead the unified national effort to secure America.” DHS has the responsibility “to prevent and deter terrorists’ attacks and protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the Nation” (Koestler-Grack, 2007). These are salient issues that affect and touch the lives of people. The US being a choice country for many people across the world, it attracts all manner of people who sometimes become a threat to natives and the entire national security. It is on this vein that DHS makes it clear that “we will secure our national borders while welcoming immigrants, visitors and trade.” This is a broad spectrum of issues especially considering the diversity of culture and expanse of the area to be covered (United States Department of Homeland Security Handbook, 2010).

US borders Mexico to the South and illegal immigrants from the Latin America have been infiltrating through the borders. The states in the South must enact strict laws to curb immigration. Some of the immigrants bring with them the problem of drug trafficking and illegal arms smuggling (Haulley, 2006). This potentially threatens the lives of people of America. It’s the responsibility of DHS to ensure that these threats do not affect the welfare of the people and are not carried out. And if they are carried out, minimum damages and destruction is done. Time management is important especially when it comes to preventing damages due to terrorists’ attacks or natural disasters. Proper emergencies management is therefore pivotal in ensuring security of the people.

Having a Rapid response unit that deals with such disasters helps to overcome the fear of loss of lives and destruction of property when the enemy strikes or natural disasters come knocking. Different branches have been opened in all the states across the country to decentralize the services and reduce the time required during response to such calamities (Haulley, 2006). Hurricane Katrina and other Oil Spill along Gulf Coast have left the department stronger waiting to exhale more impact to the people of United States. In the spirit of being more effective DHS headquarters is moving from Nebraska Avenue Center (a former naval facility) in Northwest Washington DC to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital campus in Anacostia, Southeast Washington DC by 2012. Though this movement has been opposed by preservionists, it is a step towards growth of this most important department.

DHS has three missions to detect and prevent terrorist attacks within the borders of the United States and lower the country’s risk of suffering terrorist attacks and also reduce damage and destruction of such attacks when they occur. There is another primary responsibility of DHS: to mitigate the effects of natural disasters to the local people. To carry out these tasks the department requires an area that offers room for expansion and Anacostia is likely to provide such benefits. The Congress has already allowed the relocation that can earliest come in 2012, according to Department of Homeland Security website.

Just like other government agencies Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a responsibility to ensure services are rendered both efficiently and effectively. DHS is mandated to promote internal security of people is the states of America on air, on land and in the sea. Measures must be taken to protect the people from external aggression in terrorism, and other attacks. Since security of the people is prime, prevention and rapid response should be executed in a timely manner (Haulley, 2006). To facilitate this goal of timely management of disasters and attacks, the department is divided into different subsections (agencies) that carry out specific functions. These subsections include United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, US Customs and Border Protection, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Transport Security Administration, US Coast Guard and United States Secret Service.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

With many people seeking to move to the US on permanent basis, processing of citizenships and residency must be done with precision to ensure the security of Native American citizens is not compromised. Asylum requests have also increased with more people seeking asylum in the US. An integrated information database shared between the security agencies help to prevent people with ill motives or criminals from entering America as asylum seekers. The department requires a delicate balancing act to ensure timely and applicable measures to prevent serious threats from terrorists while creating awareness of civil liberties and respecting civil rights of immigrants (Koestler-Grack, 2007). Building a centralized data system helps to get necessary information when required. This calls for enhanced information sharing infrastructures.

US Customs and Border Protection

There is a real threat of terrorist attacks from the enemies of US who would grab the earliest opportunity to cause harm and destruction to the people of US. Being aware of this reality calls for up-to-date measures to prevent external aggression. Strengthening border security is therefore a priority to gain effective control of the ports, on land, in the seas and in the air.

To become effective in stopping terrorism, the agencies share information on the possible entry points of these dissidents. This has enabled the department to manage stopping of terrorist elements before they wreak havoc on American soil. This is facilitated by continued intelligence and collaboration with other secret agencies from other countries (Koestler-Grack, 2007). DHS works in collaboration with other countries in Europe, Middle East and Africa to arrest the situation before these elements implement their evil missions.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Many people across the world feel living in America is a dream that is worthy chasing. In chasing this dream these people would stop at nothing before they realize their dream. Some therefore use unorthodox means to gain entry to the US. Some of these people come with ulterior motives and can be used by dissident elements to harm American citizens. It is therefore the work of DHS through Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ensure that interior is protected through enforcement of strict immigration laws that will keep evil elements at bay. It is indeed a very delicate balancing act to vet immigrant who are overzealous to live in the country without violating their human rights. This extends to employers out to employ people from other countries without following the laid down procedures of employing foreigners. The department has strengthened screening of travelers and workers to reduce potential risks of terrorism, biological attacks, nuclear attacks, cyber crime and reigning on contraband products.

Transport Security Administration

People using the American subway system, airports and seaports for both domestic and international transport must be thoroughly screened. Most of the serious threat can only transported from one region to another through the airports, trains and/or road networks. Most of the terrorists’ organizations for example the Al-Qaeda are known for their wide networks spanning different continents (Haulley 2006).

To deal with such threats, DHS must diversify its operations to cover other countries and also enhance collaboration between the American Government Security agencies and other agencies from partner countries. Using intelligence reports gathered by other security agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Criminal Intelligence Agency (CIA) threats of national security can greatly reduce.

Having strict surveillance of these entry and exchange points can reduce the risk of terrorist attacks. This is achieved through the involvement of the US Coast Guards who are responsible for maritime security and protection of national resources along the American coastline. DHS collaborates with security agencies from other countries through sharing of information. This information is also shared among the federal, state, local, private and non profit security partners. In return the domestic and international partners share their information on risks and their management, with the federal government. The enemy has also been changing his tactics and therefore the security agencies must always remain updated about the operations of these organizations. To deal with these threats effectively it requires services of specialized service that deals with sophisticated crimes: the US Secret Service.

United States Secret Service

DHS is mandated by the American Government through the Secret Service, to provide security to the national leaders. The responsibility of protecting current and former national leaders: Presidents and vice Presidents and their immediate families, former Presidents and their families and foreign embassies lie under this subsection of DHS. The US Secret Service must also ensure the security of the national leaders is guaranteed especially when they travel to other countries. Terrorists’ attacks may target these leaders due to their travel schedules to different countries. The US Secret Service ensures that the dignitaries are accorded water-tight security in the countries they visit without leaving anything to chance. Through the coordinated security network across the world, the service is able to uncover potential threats to its leaders.

Another responsibility of the US Secret Service includes financial crimes like fraud, computer and telecommunications fraud, false identification documents and electronic money transfers. By tightening the noose on money laundering, and hitting the target of reigning drug barons, DHS cushions the American people from the vagaries of financial crimes (United States Department of Homeland Security Handbook, 2010).

National Response Plan

Apart form ensuring security for its citizens from external aggression and terrorists attacks, DHS also handles disaster preparedness and rapid response. And when the terrorists attack as in Disaster management can reduce the losses incurred when these natural calamities strike. Among the frequent disasters that have affected the American people is flooding from typhoons and hurricanes. The only way DHS can be effective and efficient in disaster management, is by working with local companies around the country so as to report the natural disasters and provide rapid response to such occurrences (Koestler-Grack, 2007). Incident management must involve the entire federal government, states and local caucuses to provide security at the individual level. Personal domestic incident management and emergency prevention and recovery helps in the entire program of preparedness.

Among other issues coordinated by the DHS is the management of cyber crime and cyber traffic. Cyber crime has been increasing with improvement of computer technology. It is therefore necessary to protect global networks against crime propagated through the internet (Haulley, 2006). As the information era takes shape so is the crime associated with internet. The other issue is to work in conjunction with the Department of Defense, the police, fire departments, and local governments to ensure that potential threats to the American people are detected in advance and their effects spelt out before they damage lives of innocent citizens.

When different states are safe then the entire country would be safe as well. It is necessary to realize that effective prevention of terrorists’ threats and attacks can only be realized through active participation of the people of United States. To ensure that ports, airports, and borders are secured from these threats the DHS works with the people in different states for the benefit of the entire people of US. Effective security is built upon believe that concerted effort offered by the citizens will lead working of networks that have the same common goal: to ensure safety of the American people. The people must also play an active role in ensuring their own safety as they travel around the world (United States Department of Homeland Security Handbook, 2010).

Working with the public on how they would want to the protected, gives the department a strong feedback system that allows them to know what the people are thinking about at the time when the country must put the security as a priority. According to Department of Homeland Security Handbook (2010), risk preparedness and management is based on three approaches: threats, vulnerability and the direct consequences. What threats are potent and how vulnerable are the people and the country at large; what are direct consequences of these threats.

While the country is diverse in both cultures, religions and management, it is always important to analyze the effective response for every state so that there is coordinated risk alerts based on inherent dangers. Some states that are on red alert will require more attention than others that are comparatively safe. The security infrastructure ensures that these safety measures are taken with precision and any eventual loss of lives or damage of property from the attacks of terrorists or effects of natural calamities can effectively be reduced (Haulley, 2006). Being prepared ensures that relevant authorities are aware of the potential threats before hand and this helps them to be prepared in the event there are calamities.

In case of natural disasters departments like meteorological and weathermen help to predict natural calamities that may lead to loss of lives or damage of property. Ensuring effective evacuation before the natural disasters strike would reduce the effects of these natural calamities. Communications and immediate reporting of these disasters would mean that fewer people are killed and less damage on property is recorded. Coordination of disaster and emergencies management is effective through proper involvement of security agencies at the state, local and the individual level. This can be achieved through public awareness and campaign on the benefit of managing disasters so as to save lives (United States Department of Homeland Security Handbook, 2010).


Nuclear, chemical and biological bomb attacks are real due to the many enemies that purport to be oppressed by the government of US. With many more countries supporting terrorists’ organizations, the threats of these groups using weapons of mass destruction are becoming real, everyday (Haulley, 2006). It is therefore necessary to apply approaches that are practical: First the relevant agencies must be prepared. Planning ahead in case of attack, would definitely help to reduce the effect of these attacks when they occur.

The second approach is to strengthen border security. These will ensure that any attacks that would infiltrate through the borders from the South or from other neighboring countries are effectively dealt with. Patrolling the Coastline through the US Coast Guard helps to reduce the risk of these entering the country through the international waters. Dealing with attacks from outside and dealing with the ones planned within American soil can be a daunting task if rapid response mechanisms are not in place. The burden lies with DHS and the communities and entire states that live along the Borders. It is necessary to live in the reality of infiltration of firearms and drug barons.

Most countries South of America have a history of drug dealing and failing to secure strict adherence to the laws in these states would endanger the youth and the citizens of US. It is the goal of the immigration department to therefore vet all people visiting US and keeps illegal immigrants who could pose a threat to the people and government of US, at bay while ensuring preparedness on natural disasters. It is therefore the duty of DHS and its agencies to prevent attacks on American people and also ensure minimum lives are lost when these attacks are unfortunately carried out or natural disasters strike.


Haulley F. (2006). This is our Government. The Department of Homeland Security, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group Inc.

Koestler-Grack R. A. (2007). The Department of Homeland Security, New York: Infobase Publishing.

United States Department of Homeland Security Handbook (2010). Web.