The Department of Homeland Security is the newest department of the Federal Government of the United States. Created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security’s aim is to prevent further terrorist attacks from occurring and to keep Americans safe within the borders of the United States.
At its inception, the Department of Homeland Security took quite a few existing federal organizations under its umbrella; the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Customs Department, the Secret Service, and the Coast Guard are just a few of the federal organizations that are now a part of the Department of Homeland Security. For such a new department, the Department of Homeland Security has quickly become the most active, the most important, and the most recognized department in the federal government.
The website of the Department of Homeland Security lists its mission statement thusly: “We will lead the unified national effort to secure America. We will prevent and deter terrorist attacks and protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the nation. We will ensure safe and secure borders, welcome lawful immigrants and visitors, and promote the free-flow of commerce.” (“Homeland Security”, n.d.) There are a lot of powerful organizations that are part of the Department of Homeland Security now, and most of these organizations have been doing business for the federal government for a long time; they know what they are doing, and are well-equipped to do their jobs.
These organizations are now grouped under 5 distinct directorates within the Department, with each directorate having its own specific area of responsibility. The directorates are: Preparedness, Science and Technology, Management, Policy, and FEMA. Preparedness works to identify threats to the nation’s security, Science and Technology provides research and development, Management handles things like budgets and administrative paperwork, Policy creates the policies the Department operates under, and FEMA handles national emergencies. Multiple sub-organizations fall under these five directorates, with each sub-organization helping the directorates to perform their functions.
Being organized in the way it is, with distinct areas of responsibility handled by different directorates, is a very efficient way for such a large department with such a broad scope of operations to be run. While there is an overall Secretary who is head of the entire department, he is able to delegate much of the intricate workings of the department to the directorates, who in turn delegate responsibilities to their sub-organizations as appropriate. If one person were literally overseeing every single thing that happened in the Department of Homeland Security every day, few things would ever get accomplished, as one person would not be able to attend to everything the Department does on their own.
The directorates and sub-departments that make up the Department of Homeland Security are, for the most part, suitable to such a department. The Coast Guard, for example, patrols the waters of the United States, always on the look-out for suspicious activity; they help maintain the integrity of our borders (“Our Missions“, n.d.). U.S. Customs helps to ensure that no dangerous materials enter the United States. The Secret Service protects our federal officials. The Transportation Security Administration maintains the integrity of our nation’s highways (“What We Do“, n.d.). These are just a few examples of what the sub-organizations of the Department do.
In general, the directorates and sub-organizations within the Department of Homeland Security belong there. They all contribute to the accomplishing of the Department’s mission statement. While there are a few questionable sub-organizations, such as the Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Officer and the office of counter-narcotics enforcement, neither of which have much to do with maintaining national security (and whose presence in the Department will, ultimately, contribute to a slowing-down of Department operations), such superfluous entities are rare within the Department of Homeland Security.
Further, the Department envelopes so many other organizations, that it is difficult to imagine any that have been left out. The FBI and the CIA, while performing important security functions, are so large themselves that they operate more efficiently as independent organizations (and are really law enforcement organizations, rather than national security organizations). It may be appropriate for the other four branches of the military (Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines) to be included in the Department with the Coast Guard, however, in the interest of having all military operations under one umbrella.
The Department of Homeland Security performs an important function in maintaining the security of our nation against terrorism. Its creation after the September 11 terrorist attacks was a necessary one in a new world filled with new and unforeseen dangers. Because of its wide-ranging scope, the Department of Homeland Security has the ability to infiltrate the operations of would-be evildoers and stop terrorism before it starts. For such a difficult job and such a far-reaching one, the Department of Homeland Security is organized in the best possible way for it to get its job done.
“Homeland Security.” (n.d.). Department of Homeland Security.
“Our Missions.” (n.d.). United States Coast Guard.
“What We Do.” (n.d.). Transportation Security Administration.