homeland security


Congress set up the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after 9/11 to coordinate the 22 agencies that were previously preparing for a terrorist attack each from a different angle and different agency. While the DHS may have since suffered an unfair share of duct tape and amber alert jokes, its rocky first three years of life merited some legitimate criticisms, including that the 22 agencies still aren't talking to each other fluidly and that too little is being done to secure our highest risk targets. While we don't look at those criticisms here, we do offer the basics on DHS, including the agencies it covers and spending.

The Department of Homeland Security

What it does.

DHS is charged with preparing and protecting the nation from both natural and terrorist disasters and emergencies. This covers a lot of ground, including: intelligence and warning; border and transportation security; domestic counterterrorism; protecting critical infrastructure; defending against catastrophic threats; and emergency preparedness and response.

How it's set up.

The 22 agencies under the Department of Homeland Security are split into six overarching divisions that have their own directors. All divisions report to the Director of Homeland Security. About 183,000 employees fall under DHS. WH

The six divisions

What they do

The agencies they run (and the departments they come from)

Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection

Analyze information to identify threats, vulnerabilities and priorities for protective measures. Create a national plan for securing key resources and infrastructure. Run the Homeland Security Advisory System

  • National Infrastructure Protection Center (FBI)
  • National Communications System (Defense)
  • Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office (Commerce)
  • National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (Energy)
  • Federal Computer Incident Response Center (GSA)

Science and Technology

Develop policy and plan to identify and develop countermeasures for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and other threats.

  • National Bio-weapons Defense Analysis Center (Defense)
  • Plum Island Animal Disease Center (USDA)
  • Chemical, biological and nuclear nonproliferation programs (Energy)
  • Environmental Measurements Laboratory (Energy)
  • Advanced scientific computing research programs and activities (Energy)

Border and Transportation Security

Prevent terrorists from entering. Secure borders, waters, ports, terminals, waterways and transportation systems. Immigration enforcement. Create and administer visa and entry rules.

  • Customs Service (Treasury)
  • Transportation Security Administration (Transportation)
  • Federal Protective Service (GSA)
  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (Treasury)
  • Office for Domestic Preparedness (Justice)
  • Immigration and Naturalization Service (Justice)

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Oversee emergency response to terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies. Build a national incident management system and develop a national response plan.

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • Integrated Hazard Information System
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • National Domestic Preparedness Office (FBI)
  • Domestic Emergency Support Teams (Justice)
  • Emergency preparedness, national disaster and medical response systems (HHS)
  • Strategic National Stockpile (HHS)

Coast Guard

Secret Service

These agencies stay intact and report directly to the Director of Homeland Security.

source: GAO (pdf)


Figuring out how much funding goes into homeland security is tricky for two reasons: 1) not all funds given to DHS are used for homeland security (some are used for general immigration services, for example) and 2) other agencies outside DHS also spend on homeland security. The good news is that CBO has done the figuring for us. They've also tracked how much money has been authorized for homeland security since 2001.

source: CBO. other numbers can be found at GAO (pdf) and CRS (pdf)

More reading

  • The 9/11 Commission's report and recommendations on improving homeland security and their December 2005 report card (pdf) on the feds' progress. The GAO gives a four year progress report on the Department of Homeland Security's achievements and failings. Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff gives an overview of what HS has been up to over the past 5 years.

Missy Laney

Logging in all visitors: As of December, 2005 the Department of Homeland Security installed "US Visit" systems at all of the nation's 115 international airports and 15 sea and 154 land ports - so now every non-Mexican or non-Canadian foreigner gets an automatic fingerprint check and digital photo when entering the states. What's still in the works: keeping track of when those visitors leave. NYT

Spiffing up covert actions. The Washington Post covers some of the operational and policy shifts the CIA and administration have made to respond to al Qaeda, including foreign collaborations, secret prisons on foreign soil and redefining "assassination." WP

Facts pulled together by Steven Cytryn. Summer 2005. Updated July 2007.

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