The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a part of the US Defense Department. It deals with terrorist activities against the USA. Its primary purpose is to protect the citizens of America from terrorist attacks. This department was formed after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It has become the third-largest cabinet department with more than 200,000 employees. Now, Janet Napolitano is the secretary of DHS.
History of DHS
US Defense department was established in 1947. Since then, it has been handling the security issues of the USA. But the terrorist attacks that happened in the USA on September 11, 2001, made people and government think about establishing a new organization to prevent such attacks in the future. After lengthy discussions and political debates, the US Senate passed the US Security Act. The then-president George W Bush signed this Act in November 2002. This was the beginning of the Department of Homeland Security which made a big change in the US defense department. Former governor of Pennsylvania and Vietnam veteran Tom Ridge was selected as the first secretary of DHS. The book “Department of homeland security,” written by Fletcher Haulley, explains the purposes of DHS. It says,” The department of homeland security was created with four specific purposes in mind; to reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism by controlling the nation’s borders, to minimize the damage, speed up the recovery from attacks that do occur, to develop antiterrorist technologies and review intelligence from all agencies of government.” (Haulley, 2006, p.8). It is very difficult to protect people from terrorist attacks while ensuring the freedom that country offers to them. But the contribution made by DHS to the national security of the US has been incredible since its establishment.
Structure of DHS
DHS is divided into five groups. They are Border and Transportation Security; Emergency Preparedness and Response; Science and Technology; Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection; and Management. The main intention of Border and Transportation Security is to monitor activities like transportation, immigration, etc., to keep the country terrorist-free. The emergency Preparedness and Response system work to ensure that the nation is well prepared to tackle terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Science and Technology department mainly deals with biological attacks. Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection is the team that collects information from different intelligence and security agencies and prevents terrorist attacks. It is also responsible for protecting the nation’s infrastructure system. Management coordinates the entire team effort.
Adaptation of science and technology
DHS established a Cyber Security Research and Development Center. The main responsibility of this department is to provide security to the cyberinfrastructure of the nation. Many private organizations also participate in the functioning of this department. The appropriate usage of science and technology makes DHS different from similar organizations in other countries. The research that takes place in universities, research institutes, etc., makes the activities of DHS stronger. The latest tools developed by the scientists who work in the area of nuclear power are examples of the contributions of science and technology to DHS. Findings in this area help tackle nuclear terrorism against the nation. The advancement in communication technology is one of the main factors that speed up the sophistication of DHS. It is not possible to tackle natural and man-made disasters without proper communication channels. Even though sufficient advancements have been made, the communication area requires coordination of different departments of the government to improve the activities of DHS.
Fight with natural disasters.
While dealing with terrorism, DHS also has to fight natural disasters. America is always threatened by hurricanes because of its geographical position. Earthquakes and floods, tornadoes, wildfires, droughts, etc., are other major natural disasters that DHS needs to tackle frequently. A large number of property damages and deaths occur during these kinds of natural disasters. The main responsibility related to these issues is to warn people about the disaster that is going to happen. Then they take steps to evacuate people from those places. DHS also has the responsibility to reduce the effect of the consequences of disasters.
In 2008, the US government made strategic plans to make the activities of DHS stronger. The department has established a good relationship with similar organizations in other countries. It signed agreements with Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, and Spain to share information about terrorist activities. These countries can also share the technologies to tackle terrorism as per the agreement signed by them. There have been a lot of criticisms against the huge budget of DHS. But, the USA being the target of many terrorists, needs a defense organization that should be the best in the world.
Terrorism is not a new issue for the people of the United States. But the series of attacks made by terrorists on September 11, 2001, made people feel like they may be attacked again in the future in their own country. This thought was the origin of the new department. DHS serves the expectations of the citizens at its best.
Haulley, F. (2006). The department of homeland security. Rosen Classroom. 9.