Homeland Security Ken Taylor The term homeland security is a uniquely American term that came to fore right after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The events were known as one of the most daring attacks on United States soil. Despite its involvement in many wars there have been only a few isolated incidents of attacks on United States. The country has been relatively safe and out of harm’s way, except for a few domestic problems from so called “homegrown terrorists”. However, all that would change after the September 11 attacks. Almost instantly, the sense of security that many Americans had was gone.
The reaction by the United States government was almost instant and the concept of homeland security was born. This spawned a new government agency that is now known as the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The concept of homeland security is based upon the concept of preventing and reducing terrorists attacks on United States as well as minimizing the damage if and when there is a terrorist attack. This essay will focus on the concept of homeland security and the agency tasked to implement it was well as discuss issues surrounding the concept.
Ever since September 11, 2011 the attitude toward terrorism prevention has taken a radical turn. One of those responses is the Patriot Act of 2011. It made a drastic reorganization of the government by bringing together many government agencies such as FEMA, Office of Domestic Preparedness and others under the DHS. The DHS’s objectives are the following: preventing terrorist attacks, reducing United States vulnerability to terrorism, and minimizing the effects of damage should an attack occur (Prante & Bohara, 2008). The Office of Homeland Security was created 11 days after the September 11 attacks.
It was first located at the White House, its function was to oversee a comprehensive national strategy to protect the U. S. against terrorism and respond to any future attacks. A year later in November 2002, congress passed the Homeland Security Act. The Department of Homeland Security officially became a standalone, cabinet level department (Kemp, 2012). The new department integrated all or part of 22 different Federal departments into a single unified agency. Since the time of its inception the nation has seen the implementation of two national warnings systems. In relation to omeland security, the United States has seen the emergence of various emergency and disaster related citizen support groups, which are designed to serve law enforcement agencies and first-responders at all levels of the government. There has also been more information posted on the internet for the consumption of citizens in general. This information has become more sophisticated and tailored to the needs of improving homeland security. Because of the popularity of social media, it has also been used by the Federal government to help and inform citizens on how to prepare for disasters and emergencies.
One of the key elements of homeland security is a national warning system (Flynn, 2011). To improve coordination and communication between all levels of government and the public, the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 3 was signed by the President in March 2, 2002. This created the Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS) (Kemp, 2012). This was created to serve as a simple and efficient structure to for communication to disseminate information with regard to any possible attack aimed at the government or its citizens. In 2011, it was replaced by the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS).
As a country the United States has many federal alert systems. These are tailored for each sector of society such as agriculture, transportation, defense, and weather. These systems deliver a specific set of information in various emergency situations. The HSAS provided a coordinated national framework that allowed government and citizens to communicate the nature as well as degree of terrorist attacks (Kemp, 2012). The advisory system was composed of appropriate levels of preparedness, readiness, and vigilance. It was presented in a series of graduated threat-condition levels, which were color coded.
There are protective measures that accompany each threat condition. This helped local governments and citizens to discern what actions to take in case of terrorist activity (Flynn, 2011). It was also based on these threat levels that federal government implemented safety measures. State and local officials were also informed in advance of any incoming advisories when possible. The information was conveyed at Federal, State, and local levels by the DHS (Kemp, 2012). This information was also given to the private sector and non-profit organizations.
Changes on the threat level were made accordingly by the DHS. The threat levels could also be applied to the entire country, geographic location or industry. The threat levels characterized the risk of a possible attack based on the latest and best information available. There are also protective measures to reduce vulnerabilities. The HSAS was comprised of five threat conditions that came with the corresponding protective measures. These were: Green for low condition, Blue for guarded condition, Yellow for elevated condition, Orange for high condition, and Red for severe condition (Kemp, 2012).
Ever since the September 11 attacks the nation has only been at Orange level a few times. The HSAS had issued regional or functional in nature and scope. If the nation went to threat condition Orange, it was not limited to specific geographic areas (Flynn, 2011). Public officials would let the citizens know that they were taking steps to protect them. In 2011, the HSAS was replaced by the NTAS. The NTAS was designed to communicate information about terrorists in very much the same way the HSAS was designed to do.
However, the scope has become wider because of the belief that Americans all share the same responsibility to make the country safe from terrorists. In order to help them in this duty, Americans need to have the information that they need. This is the purpose of NTAS. The NTAS was designed to warn both the citizens and government officials (Kemp, 2012). The statements that come from NTAS contain information that an imminent threat is on its way. All NTAS alerts are based on the nature of the threat. The alerts are issued to a broad range of mediums such as official and public media channels.
The difference that the NTAS has with the HSAS is that warnings have a specific time period and will automatically expire. Alerts have the possibility of being extended as well. There is also a possibility of updating the alerts depending on the latest information that is gathered. The alerts follow a standard system and a uniform format. As mentioned earlier each alert has a specific duration that can be allowed to expire or extend if necessary. The next section contains the details of the pending or actual threat and the description of the geographic location or sectors that are involved in the threat.
The end of the alert will contain information on how the public and government can help each other as well as what to do in case of emergency (Kemp, 2012). The alert also contains information on where to obtain additional information as well as links to the DHS website pertaining to the threat. Information from the alert is gathered from a bipartisan task force composed of security experts, state and local officials, law enforcement, and other interested parties. The DHS also has at its disposal several groups that are focused on assisting citizens.
There are chapters active in virtually every state. Federal agencies that are involved in these groups are the DHS, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services. The following are the groups that are currently active: Citizens Corps (CC), Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Fire Corps (FC), USAonWatch (USAOW), Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS), Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), and InfraGard (IG) (Kemp, 2012).
The Citizens Corps (CC) evolved from the idea that citizens can lend a hand in protecting their homeland by assisting and supporting first responders. The CC was launched in January 2002 by President Bush (Kemp, 2012). The CC was created to help coordinate volunteer activities with the goal of making safer communities as well as making them better prepared for emergencies. It is a venue for people to be able to participate in making the communities safer from terrorism and natural disasters. Members are given proper training, first aid, and emergency skills so that they can become volunteers who can assist first responders.
As of the moment the CC has more than 1,200 chapters nationally. The program is attached to the DHS. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is a program coordinated by FEMA. It is focused in giving training on basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue practices, and disaster medical operation (Kemp, 2012)s. Similar to the CC the CERT was made to make citizens involved in case of natural disasters. The help make the community take a more active role in times of natural or manmade emergencies.
The CERT currently has 1,900 chapters spread across the nation. The Fire Corps (FC) was created to promote the use of citizens to enhance the capacity of fire and rescue departments. Members are trained so that they are capable of assisting local fire departments in certain activities. These can include fire safety outreach programs, youth oriented programs, and administrative support (Kemp, 2012). The goal of the FC is not to assist firemen in actual fires but to provide them with resources and support them non fire related concerns. The FC currently has 1,100 chapters across the country.
Its funding comes from the DHS and is managed through collaboration among the National Volunteer Fire Council, International Association of Fire Fighters, and International Association of Fire Chiefs. The USAonWatch (USAOW) is a group that is composed of the Neighborhood Watch Programs (NWP) that works to provide information, training, and resources to citizens and law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Ever since the September 11 attacks the NWP have moved beyond crime prevention (Kemp, 2012). They now assist in disaster preparedness; emergency response was well as terrorism awareness.
The groups have many different names throughout the country such as Crime Watch and Business Watch among others. The group is administered by the National Sheriff’s Association (NSA) in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) (Kemp, 2012). The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is a program that is focused in giving medical, public health, and other volunteers a chance to offer their expertise on a long term basis. MRC volunteers work on a long-term basis.
They also work in coordination with local emergency responders as well as supplementing existing public health programs (Kemp, 2012). These activities includes blood drives, immunization programs, and outreach programs. The MRC program has close to 1000 chapters nationwide. It is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) is a program designed to support and provide resources to state and local law enforcement agencies. This program allows citizens the opportunity to lend their expertise to law enforcement agencies (Kemp, 2012).
There are more than 2,200 chapters in the country and is funded by the DOJ. It is managed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (LACP) in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), in the DOJ (Kemp, 2012). The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is a federal agency that promotes volunteerism through programs such as the AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America, among others (Kemp, 2012). They are funded through the DHS and have thousands of members across the country.
The InfraGard (IG) is tasked with information sharing and analysis. They are administered by the FBI. It is basically an association that is composed of businesses, academic institutions, state and local law enforcement agencies, and other participants all dedicated to sharing information and intelligence (Kemp, 2012). They do this to guard against hostile acts that target the United States. The goal of this group is to protect both cyber and public infrastructures. The chapters around the country are connected to the 56 field offices of the FBI.
The group currently has close to 50,000 members (Kemp, 2012). One of the issues hounding the Department of Homeland Security is the distribution of funds (Prante & Bohara, 2008). The DHS annually disburses grants to each state in the United States, a move that is constantly being criticized. The critics often point out that the grants are often distributed as “pork barrel” with politicians fighting to get bigger funding results in money going to states that have small populations and little risk of terrorist attacks.
The misallocation of funds often results in bigger problems because terrorism is a serious problem (Prante & Bohara, 2008). This leaves little money for states that need it, which could result in serious consequences. One of the primary instruments that the DHS uses to effectively address these objectives is through the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP). This program distributes a significant amount to the individual states and territories (Prante & Bohara, 2008). In 2006 alone a total of 1. 6 billion was distributed.
One of the biggest issues surrounding the HSGP is that sparsely populated states have received more per capita than their more crowded counterparts (Prante & Bohara, 2008). This becomes an issue because DHS funds are being spent on matters of lesser concern in rural areas as opposed to being spent on high profile concerns in densely populated areas. There are many examples of misuse, such as the installation of surveillance cameras in remote villages in Alaska, kennels for stray animals in Modoc County, California, gym memberships, a 14 mile bridge in Mobile, Alabama (Prante & Bohara, 2008).
These may have benefitted some people but is of no significance to preventing terrorism. The most common retort of politicians is that the natural resources of these rural areas require as much protection as urban areas. It is not really the people they are protecting but the natural resources. Aside from the alleged wasteful spending there are also allegations of politicians who fight for the grants and have been distributing them like “pork barrel” as well as the way by which the grants are distributed. Prior to 2006, there was a formula that was used.
The formula was systematic, each state would receive a base level funding, with the remainder being distributed proportionally to a state’s population. Because of the fear spread by the threat of terrorism, it would seem that America has become obsessed with homeland security. Friedman (2011) has said that Americans seem to want more protection than they need. This is motivated by the fact that people worry more about terrorist attacks than they should and that the information that they get about terrorist threats comes from the government who is intent on reinforcing excessive fears.
The fact that the United States is vulnerable to threats is a given. The sheer size of the country alone guarantees that no matter how prepared the country is, there will still be places that are unprotected. Even if the country keeps a close guard over airports to prevent terrorists from entering but the problem is that the United States has one of the biggest borders and coastlines in the world. Every year, millions of people are admitted into the United States which makes precautions effective only to a certain extent.
However, it should be made clear that vulnerability is not the same as risk. Vulnerability is about the possibility of harm, while risk considers the probability of harm (Friedman, 2011). The United States may be vulnerable but it is far from being at risk. The problem of homeland security has always been attributed to outside threats but in reality the country has its own share of homegrown terrorists. Nevertheless, even before homeland security became a major concern, the government has been dealing with them effectively.
With the present immigration and border controls in place, the country is far from being at risk. Another factor that plays a major role that can assuage the fears of terrorism is that the economy and the government are built in a way that they limit the consequences of a terrorist attack (Flynn, 2011). There may be many who believe that the United States is at risk but they fail to see that fact that the country has a long history of resiliency. Despite the events of September 11 the country has been able to recover relatively well. It was not an event that was forgotten.
Lessons have been learned from it and the country has been able to get back up again. The presence of the DHS has made it so that the country is ready for any eventuality. The programs that it has implemented have underscored a facet that is very important in homeland security. This is that fact that it is everyone’s job to ensure homeland security. The number of volunteers and systems in place are testament to this fact. However, the concept of homeland security is not without its faults. Issues such as fear mongering and the misuse of funds are constantly appearing.
However, the good thing is that it is constantly improving and gaining the support of the entire country. A terrorist attack on United States soil cannot be prevented but at least with the concerted efforts of both the government and the public the effects may be lesser than what happened in September 11, 2001. References Flynn, S. (2011). Recalibrating Homeland Security. Foreign Affairs. May/Jun2011, Vol. 90 Issue 3, p130-140. 11p. Friedman, B. (2011). Managing Fear: The Politics of Homeland Security. Political Science Quarterly. Spring2011, Vol. 126 Issue 1, p77-106. 0p. Kemp, R. (2012). Homeland Security in America Past, Present, and Future. World Future Review. Spring2012, Vol. 4 Issue 1, p28-33. 6p. Mabee, B. (2007). Re-imagining the Borders of US Security after 9/11: Securitisation, Risk, and the Creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Globalizations. Sep2007, Vol. 4 Issue 3, p385-397. 13p. Prante, T and Bohara, A. K. (2008). What Determines Homeland Security Spending? An Econometric Analysis of the Homeland Security Grant Program. Policy Studies Journal. 2008, Vol. 36 Issue 2, p243-256. 14p. 5 Charts.