Provision of security to persons and property is one of the fundamental purposes of any government. In fact, if a country cannot assure its citizens of security, its legitimacy is always questioned. With the rise in terrorism and increased interconnectedness in the world, the US government developed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In fact, the September 9, 2001 bombings were done using high levels of intelligence by the AL Qaeda terrorist group. The current use of intelligence by both governments and terrorist groups has reached unprecedented levels. Therefore, it is upon various governments to form police intelligence departments in order for them to stay ahead of the malicious terrorist groups in the gathering and assessment of critical security information. This paper will look assess how DHS has performed since it was established and give proposals on how it can improve its activities.
Keywords: terrorism, intelligence, security
Department of Homeland Security
Establishing a fair, honest, realistic framework for empowering state and local authorities to meet their responsibilities for disaster response and domestic counterterrorism operations, is the key to reconstructing the US Department of Homeland Security. As a result, the government has been forced to allocate a lot of resources and efforts into this department, with an aim of improving the country’s security. Following periods of increased terror attacks in the 1990’s and early 2000s, Americans became increasingly concerned about terrorist attacks in the US. Events such as the 1993 Oklahoma City bombing of the World Trade Center, the discovery of a bomb in the 1994 Atlanta Olympics, and perceptions of increased terrorist activities from occurrences such as the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania increased the need for this department. However, it was the September 11, 2011bombings that dramatically led to the formation of this department.
Following the September 11, 2001 bombing, President George W. Bush proposed the establishment of the Office of Homeland Security to deal with issued of increased terrorist threats in the country. This office was established on October 8, 2001, and was concerned with four major policy initiatives: weapons of mass destruction and countermeasures, emergency preparedness and response, information analysis and infrastructure protection, and border and transportation security. In 2002, the President Bush administration started policies that aimed at establishing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Unlike the OHS, this department was to be a permanent agency with its own budget for the conduct of its missions (Mitchell & Pate, 2003). Following the passing by the Congress of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296), on November 19, 2002, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established (Perl, 2017).
Employing more than 179,000 individuals and as a merger of 22 government agencies, the establishment of the DHS is one of the major reorganization of the federal government agencies that has occurred after the establishment of the National Security Act of 1947 (Pearl, 2017). The main purpose of this department is to prevent terrorist attacks in the US, reduce the country’s vulnerability, and to minimize damage in case these threats materialize. Accordingly, the DHS aims at addressing six major issues that are of importance in the national strategy. These issues are categorized as follows:
- Intelligence and warning
- Domestic counterterrorism
- Defending against catastrophic events and threats
- Border and transportation security
- Emergency preparedness and response
- Protecting critical infrastructure and key assets
To achieve its main objectives, the department is divided into four directorates: border and transportation security; science and technology in support of homeland security; emergency preparedness and response; and information analysis and infrastructure protection. The function of the border and transportation security directorate is to secure USA’s territorial boundaries, waters, and transport system. To achieve this objective, this department must centralize information-sharing and also the databases used to track, control, and monitor the country border and transport systems (Mitchell & Pate, 2003). This department controls all ports of entry into the country, the intended commerce into the US through the Container Security Initiatives (CSI). In addition, it improves the security system by implementing more rigorous processes in the acquisition of visa and increased security in domestic transportation.
The emergency preparedness and response directorate is charged with the mandate of creating an emergency response plan for the federal government on how to address various national emergencies. To achieve its objective, this department issues equipment and facilitates training to government bodies from the federal government level down to local levels. FEMA, the FBI’s National Domestic Preparedness Office, and Various Health and Human Services Offices are members of this directorate. FEMA plays a critical role in coordinating programs for firefighters, emergency personnel, and the police.
The role of the science and technology directorate in support of homeland security entail the coordination and integration of research with and testing of various technologies with an aim of preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and implementing measures to counter terrorist’s activities. In addition, this directorate has the authority of establishing anti-terrorist countermeasures such as programs aimed at preventing smuggling and implementing vaccination programs. To ensure that the federal and state governments are prepared for these threats, it constantly conducts exercise and drills to test response plans to chemical, radiological, nuclear, and biological attacks.
The main objective of the information analysis and infrastructure protection directorate is to evaluate weaknesses in the country’s systems such as banking and finance, emergency service, transport, healthcare, electricity, agriculture, food, and water systems. To achieve its objectives, it shares and coordinates information sharing with other government bodies that are charged with the analysis of sensitive security information such as FBI and CIA.
Some of the main challenges facing the DHS are the fusion of its activities into a single organization under a single leadership and centralized operations. It is worth remembering that the DHS was formed from a merger of 22 independent agencies. In addition, there is the challenge in segregating the responsibilities of the various directories and defining their roles and responsibilities. Due to its huge network of formerly independent agencies, the DHS has a challenge on how it shares and coordinates analyze and fuse intelligence on domestic or foreign terrorist threats. Finally, the DHS has a challenge in the promotion and integration of science and technology in the policies of homeland security. In particular, there is an issue in the determination and assessment of the vulnerability of the threat (Perl, 2017).
Fusion and Actionable Intelligence Information
In the current day and era, it is not feasible for a government to exist without information or at least means of acquiring it. Therefore, the assumption of the government not having access to necessary intelligence is a farce and a tragedy in the making. Nonetheless, there is always a problem in determining the type of information that the government can keep and the extent to which it may disclose sensitive information. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that there are at least 123 plants that store toxic chemicals, which have a potential of affecting as many as 1 million people in case of an accident. In addition, there are another 3,400 facilities that can affect at least 1,000 people.
While many of the U.S. environmental laws have guidelines on provisions of information to the public concerning health-related conditions and threats posed by these facilities, this information may still be used by malicious individuals and terrorist to identify targets. More specifically, the disclosure of information enables individuals to identify chemical hazards and promotes communication between communities and the industry, investors, and other stakeholders to improve on emergency response tactics. In general, the right-to-know is founded on the imperatives that this information is essential for the public deliberation of the appropriateness of a specific industrial activity. Moreover, this information acts as a guide to local communities on how to recognize and respond to emergencies (Shapiro & Cohen, 2007).
Following the September 9, 2001 bombing, the 1974 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was relaxed and enabled various federal agencies to withhold some essential information to the public. In the current situation, as long as agencies can have a “sound basis” for withholding information, they need not disclose it to the public. The 2002 Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness Act indicates that some information of public infrastructure is exempted from disclosure requirements. According to the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), as of 2006, 50 states had enacted statutes which exempted the disclosure of information on critical infrastructure (Herrick, 2009). All this shows the extent to which the general public is currently limited from having access to essential information for their ordinary activities.
As aforementioned, most of the now restricted information were required to be disclosed through FOIA. According to research, the general public always has a tendency towards adaptability and cooperation in case of an emergency. Moreover, survivors usually share their food, equipment, time, and tools. Not surprising, they are usually the first responders in emergency situations. Studies also suggest that individuals living close to disaster sites normally consult, seek information, engage in collective decision making, and perform rescue activities. Although natural disasters usually occur with some level of predictability, such as disaster prone areas can be easily identified, this is not the case in terrorist attacks and technological failures (Herrick, 2009). Due to the inability to predict these calamities, there is a need for better reaction by citizens, who are mostly the immediate responders, and the government. To facilitate such a reaction, the government should ensure that these individuals access appropriate information on probable risks within their environment.
Although it is ignorant to suggest that all information should be openly disclosed to the public, it is possible that some risks may actually increase due to restrictions. Based on this, there should be an appropriate trade-off on how much should be disclosed and the possible security risks that may occur. Generally, if the social benefits outweigh the costs of withholding information, the government should disclose them to the public. In light of this, the government should implement the following proposals in the disclosure of information.
- Security agencies should consider if the disclosed information may be used criminal gangs in identifying targets for crime activities.
- There should be an evaluation of the impact of combining the disclosed information with other existing information in the public revealing the vulnerability and weakness in security.
- The extent that the public or other stakeholders may benefit from accessing this information.
- The repercussions of the DHS not disclosing this information to the public.
- Whether the information is already available to the public (Herrick, 2009).
Prevention and Deterrence of Attack
The entry of persons and goods into any country occurs in only two ways; the legal or illegal means. In the legal method, individuals enter through the approved legal entry points such as seaports, airports, and various border points. Moreover, these individuals provide their appropriate entry documents such as visas to the immigration and customs officers prior to their entry. Whereas, in the illegal entry, individuals do not use the approved entry points. Even when they use the approved entry points, these individuals sneak into the country without disclosing their entry documents to the immigration and customs officers (United Nations, n.d). Ordinarily, terrorists use illegal means to enter a country so that weapons, firearms, hazardous chemicals, and explosives that aim at undermining the country’s security. To eliminate the threats by these criminal gangs, the following security measures should be implemented:
- The DHS should use high-performance detection equipment that can be used to identify materials that have been smuggled into the country through clandestine means. For example, the use of sophisticated scanners can be used to identify an individual with forged documents. Similarly, the use of infrared scanners can also detect the content of containers.
- The DHS can also incorporate the use of biometrics identification of all individuals who enter the country. The use of body structures minimizes the chances of forgery. It is now easier for people to use fake pictures on the passport, however, it is impossibly difficult to fake biometric data.
- The use of Advanced Passenger Information Systems (APIS) enables security officers to identify blacklisted or high-risk customers before they even land in the country. As a result, they are able to identify individuals that they will need to conduct a thorough search and inquiry of their need of travel.
- Through the US government international influence and power, it can coerce partner countries to implement laws that prohibit the importation of dangerous materials. It is worth noting that terrorist can import these materials in the guise of using them in approved economic activities and later divert them to their illegal acts. According to the UN Customs Act of 1967, a Finance Minister can issue a directive that would prevent the importation or exportation of specific goods.
- The DHS should also impose severe punishments for individuals caught in aiding and abetting in terrorist activities. Similarly, these penalties should be applied among individuals who would be found assisting in the smuggling of terrorist and illegal dangerous materials.
- To encourage people to provide information concerning potential terrorist activities, the governments should issue monetary rewards for information that could lead to the arrest of these individuals and to the seizure of their equipment.
- The DHS can also cooperate with other agencies through joint operations and also through the exchange and sharing of information. For example, the DHS can partner with the army in the patrol of the US border, which would enable it to access the sophisticated military and scientific equipment owned by the military. In addition, sharing of information with international organizations such as Interpol would provide it with information on international terrorists and terror suspects (United Nations, n.d).
Hardening of Targets
Ordinarily, terrorists try to influence public policy by taking advantage of soft targets due to their military disadvantage if they were to engage in a direct conflict. To evaluate major chains of terrorist attack sin the world, there is a clear trend on the nature of attacks. In the July 22, 1968 hijack of El Al flight to Tel Aviv from Rome, the terrorists coerces the governments to release three popular terrorists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Due to the increased terrorist attacking in the 1980’s airports have had to increase their budget through the introduction of metal detectors, using of sniffer dogs, and other screening devices. In addition, most government offices have been forced to use guards, security grills, and increased surveillance cameras to prevent, monitor, and control crime (Homeland Securities Committee, 2008). To increase the overall security of especially key infrastructure, the governments should undertake the following policies:
- Ensuring that targets are difficult to attack. Generally, this objective can be achieved by using alarms systems, fencing the areas, and using strong doors. Individuals should be restricted from visiting critical infrastructure such as nuclear plants by ensuring they are fences and there are guards watching who is traveling in these areas.
- Eliminating the means that may be used to commit a crime. Since terrorist take advantage of various opportunities to commit a crime, the most effective means is eliminating these means. For example, the DHS should prevent individuals from carrying fire causing equipment in the airplane. Similarly, people should be prevented from carrying metallic objects and light firearms in a sports Through this means, a terrorist who aims at taking advantage of weaknesses in the system would be prevented from committing a crime.
- The increase in surveillance and visibility is an important method of preventing terror activities. Terrorist, just like all criminal gangs prefer operating in locations where they cannot be easily detected. Therefore, the increase in visibility and surveillance would act as an efficient disincentive for terror activities due to the high levels of detection. CCTV cameras and a watch tower can be effective in this activity.
Response and Recovery Attacks
Response to attacks refers to simply the set of steps that the nation can undertake to ensure it effectively manages issues affection the national security. To ensure the response is effective, the government should be able to engage partnership with other stakeholders, there should be a multi-tiered response, the response should be scalable, flexible, and adaptable to varying operation capabilities, and there should be a unified command. In addition, all stakeholders must be ready to act. To ensure that there is an adequate and efficient response, the DHS should initiate the following proposals.
Planning: The DHS should always have plans on how to coordinate various agencies when dealing with a national emergency. Generally, the planning improves the effectiveness of partner agencies and ensures rapid exchange of information as well as a systematic and coordinated approach to dealing with the issue. In the planning process, the agencies would have to factor issues on logistics, weather, requirements of the affected population, and shelter.
Organizing: There is always a need to have a team of leaders who coordinate the response and recovery process during an emergency. In fact, this aspect brings to light the need for adequate disclosure of information to locals since they are usually the first members at the scene. Therefore, they are critical in organizing the emergency response (Shapiro & Cohen, 2007).
Equipment: They play a major role in the response team since are used in the rescue process. Therefore, the DHS should ensure that it has adequate stockpiles of equipment to be used in case of an emergency. In addition, they should be stored in strategic sites that are accessible when there is an emergency.
Training: One of the most effective ways of ensuring success when dealing with an emergency is ensuring rigorous and continuously training of the emergency response team. In addition, there should be the use of incident management training in classroom formats so that all members of the rescue team can understand and prepare for the emergency response activities (Shapiro & Cohen, 2007).
Recovery is normally done once the rescue process is complete and aims at restoring these individuals to their normal quality of life. In practice, it aims at enabling them access basic needs and attain self-sufficient. To achieve this goal, the DHS should identify and provide the resources needed by these individuals. It should also provide adequate housing, sanitation, and water to promote restoration.
Improved Cost Efficiency of the Department of Homeland Security
As one of the largest departments in the US, mismanagement of funds in the DHS account for millions of taxpayers’ money that could have otherwise being used in various social beneficial activities. Recently, the DHS has come under huge criticism for mismanagement of funds in relation to real-estate. By development of various lease agreements, promote co-location, and embrace the use of modern offices, this department may save a lot of funds. In New York City, for example, DHS pays $3.5 million for rent space it cannot utilize (Homeland Securities Committee, 2016).
To save funds used by DHS in the One World Trade Center, the department aims at issuing it to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) which will result in a saving of 45% per year. Therefore, in order for DHS to be cost efficient, it must prudently use its real estate properties. Some of the ways of improving the use of this excess capacity are the establishment of training facilities, such as the initiatives implemented in Boston and Seattle. Southern California established communication infrastructure and services, which is also a prudent means of using space.
Besides real estate, the company should also manage its vehicle fleets, which are more than its capacity. As of 2012, the company has underutilized cars that cost $48.6 million. The department has also not been able to set up clear data on its training expenses. As a result, there has been a lot of wastage of funds. According to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the DHS could not fully explain how it had used its funds in labor and construction costs of the Advanced Training Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Through the development of open and clear systems, the department will become more cost effective (Homeland Security Committee, 2016).
To sum up, the tasks of the DHS require consistent and vigilant review of all operations in the country. In light of this, officers who work in this department should always conduct research on the security matters in the US and also those in other parts of the world so that they can be able to formulate appropriate policies to eliminate terrorist threats. Importantly, it must be able to determine the appropriate information for public use and that which must be concealed due to misuse of this information by malicious and terrorist groups. Nonetheless, the DHS must establish and follow policies that will ensure it uses its financial resources appropriately so that it can have sufficient funds for use in its security activities.
Herrick, C. (2009). Homeland security and citizen response to emergency situations: A perspective on the need for a policy approach to information access. Policy Science, 42, 195-210.
Homeland Security. (2008). National response framework. Washington, DC. Retrieved from: https://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nrf/nrf-core.pdf
Homeland Securities Committee. (2016). Streamlining the department of homeland security’s overhead will make the homeland safer: House homeland security committee majority staff report. Retrieved from: https://homeland.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Report-Streamlining-DHS-Overhead-Will-Make-the-Homeland-Safer.pdf
Mitchell, J., & Pate, J. (2003). The Department of Homeland Security: Goals and challenges. Retrieved from: http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/homeland-security-goals-challenges/
Perl, R. (2017). The Department of Homeland Security: Background and challenges. https://www.nap.edu/read/10968/chapter/24#178
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