U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Overview and Recommendations Essay

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U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Overview and Recommendations

It is a widely known fact that even though there were federal agencies that were supposed to protect the United States, the September 11 terrorist attack was known to have been generally successful in accomplishing its goal. A possible reason for this is that even though there were many federal agencies during that time that should have responded or even prevented the disaster, the efforts were crippled as the coordination between agencies were rather limited (Borja, 2008).

Given this, the formation of a department that would interconnect and group relevant federal agencies together in order to increase national security was made apparent. On this note, then U.S. President George W. Bush initiated the formation of the Office of Homeland Security which later became a part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) after the merger was mandated by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Borja, 2008).

As expected, the concept of being prepared for events of terrorism, which may not only be in the form orchestrated plane crashes into key points in the country as exhibited in the September 11 disaster but also possibly through chemical, biological, and computer-based forms as well, is not a simple matter (McCullagh, 2002). In addition, other events or occurrences such as natural disasters and the spread of diseases are taken into consideration as well (Borja, 2008).

In this sense, the Department of Homeland Security was composed of federal agencies which may be classified under four main tasks; aim and policy formation, deterrence and interception, reconnaissance, and preparation and recovery (Longley, 2009). As discussed, the plan to form such a body for homeland security was a direct effect of the September 11 attack, given that it is highly expected that since new forms of threats have been considered during the past years, the current composition of the federal agencies grouped under such tasks has evolved from the original grouping during the establishment of the USDHS.

Before assessing the current constituents of the USDHS and other changes, it is of course only proper to evaluate its composition during the point when it was newly established. During its formation, the federal agencies that were included under the USDHS were the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Customs Service, National infrastructure Protection Center, National Communications System, Energy Security and Assurance Program, Federal Computer Incident Response Center, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Transportation Security Administration, as well as other agencies which have specialized tasks inclusive of the aim of homeland security (Longley, 2009).

It is evident that even though the list is incomplete, as there were more than 20 federal agencies included, the general aim of a holistic maintenance of security in terms of the country and its citizens is well reflected by the federal agencies included.

To expound, the agencies that were included were composed of agencies focused upon various sectors. In fact, there was a combination of agencies that focused on transportation, economics, law, justice, agriculture, energy, health, and intelligence related issues regarding security (Borja, 2008). Such a collection of different agencies with varying specializations makes it apparent that while it based upon the terrorist attacks, the initial form of the USHDS was in fact rather well-rounded in terms of safety considerations.

This is an evident proof that the concept of homeland security was more than a form of counter terrorism movement but rather a well-defined program of efficiently assuring safety in terms of various aspects of the country. In this sense, more often than not, the general efficiency of a program is only tested and proven upon being put into function, and it is also expected that different adjustments and reconsiderations are made depending upon the current threats and considerations as well as overall efficiency and performance.

As mentioned, the current set of federal agencies that are placed under the USDHS is somewhat different in comparison to the original constituents. For one, several federal agencies were either merged, or tasks were given to other agencies instead or were used in order to form new federal agencies. A good example for this case is the Immigration and Naturalization Service which was included in the original list of agencies in the newly established USDHS.

Currently however, its main functions have been separated and were passed on to three different agencies: the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (Borja, 2008). This implies that the tasks once placed under a single agency were thought to be too numerous for a single agency to accomplish.

In addition, a similar fate was met by the U.S. Customs Service as its functions for inspection and laws regarding customs have been distributed between the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Borja, 2008). Aside from tasks being distributed as it was too great to be dealt with by a single agency, there were also agencies in which the tasks and responsibilities were compressed or transferred into a single agency instead. An example of such is the transfer of tasks and responsibilities from the Nuclear Incident Response Team, Domestic Energy Support Teams, and National Domestic Preparedness Office to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (Borja, 2008).

As discussed, the formation of new federal agencies such as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with the abolition of agencies such as the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Border and Transportation Security, and Emergency Preparedness and Response, has all been a result of a continuous aim towards improvement. Specifically, this was a result of the changes and addition of national laws and reviews, such as the Executive Order made in response to Hurricane Katrina, which takes into consideration a better functional efficiency and an updated scope depending on what is needed (Borja, 2008).

However, even though USDHS is presented to be under a continuous trend for improvement, there are still problems associated with it. Mainly, the problems associated with the ineffectiveness of some functions of the USDHS are in terms of the shortcomings and even deliberate mistakes of the employees, especially the management of several federal agencies.

In fact, the lack of proper response and appropriate measures done before and after Hurricane Katrina has been well documented, along with other specific employee-related cases which were definitely a source of negative publicity (Giermanski, 2006). In relation to this, such limitations in the proper capabilities and actions of the employees have resulted in three significant weak points for the USDHS. Analysts have stated that the technological, operational, as well as intelligence based functions of the USDHS are compromised due to these.

In response to this, it would be best if new federal agencies would be formed and added into the USDHS in order to  enhance the proficiency of the employees. For one, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management may be given additional tasks focused on providing more selective screening methods for would-be USDHS employees.

In essence, even though the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is an agency mainly for the selection of employees, it may be enhanced and be integrated as part of the USDHS which will not only assure that the employees are capable of accomplishing their tasks, but also may play a vital role in maintaining the overall credibility of the employees through subsequent or periodic aptitude tests along with other aptitude tests that are probably given by the federal agencies in which the employees work for.

Aside from this, it may also be efficient if an agency will also be added that would be given tasks to evaluate the overall performance of other agencies under the USDHS. Given this, if a federal agency is becoming ineffective or its management is becoming corrupt, then it would be easy to identify which agencies should be removed or redistributed. In this way, immediate removal of any agency without proper basis would be prevented. Therefore, even though the USDHS undergoes continuous changes as time passes, it is important that its performance is assessed from all perspectives, and through this, the formation of new federal agencies with new or reinstated roles will then become most likely more effective.


Borja, E.C. (2008). Brief documentary history of the Department of Homeland Security:           2001 – 2008. Department of Homeland Security Security Office. Retrieved         June 1, 2009, from

            http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/brief_documentary_history_of_dhs_2001_2008.p    df.

Giermanski, J. (2006, May 4). Homeland Security’s fundamental weaknesses.  CSO –     Security and Risk. Retrieved June 1, 2009, from     http://www.csoonline.com/article/print/220853.

Longley, R. (2009). Homeland Security – key players: Federal agencies protecting the U.S.       from terrorist attacks. About.com – U.S. Government Information. Retrieved June 1,      2009, from http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/blhomeland.htm.

McCullagh, D. (2002, November 25). Bush signs Homeland Security bill. CNET News.

            Retrieved June 1, 2009, from http://news.cnet.com/Bush-signs-Homeland-Security-        bill/2100-1023_3-975305.html.

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