Homeland Security Department

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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There were gaps in the U.S. system for detecting and deterring terrorist acts in the homeland. That became clear September 11, 2001. The Department of Homeland Security is the GEORGE W. BUSH administration's plug for those gaps.

The department's main goal is to protect U.S. citizens against terrorists. It brings together people from 22 agencies to protect the nation's borders, help state and local safety officials better respond to catastrophes, research treatments against biological threats, and coordinate intelligence on terrorists. The administration's rationale: better communication is the key to achieving those goals; the Department of Homeland Security is the key to better communication.

Republicans drew up legislation January 23, 2002, to create the department. In November of that year, the U.S. House and Senate passed the Homeland Security Act, and President Bush signed it. The cabinet department melded 22 agencies as varied as the Coast Guard, Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Transportation Security Administration. It was the biggest change in U.S. government since the DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

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was created in 1947. Former Pennsylvania governor and Vietnam veteran Tom Ridge became the first secretary of the department.

The department is divided into five teams, called directorates: Border and Transportation Security; Emergency Preparedness and Response; Science and Technology; Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection; and Management.

The primary goal of the largest directorate, Border and Transportation Security, is to keep terrorists out of the United States. It has a dual focus: enforcing immigration laws and keeping the country's transportation systems safe. This division incorporates sectors of the Department of Immigration and Naturalization, U.S. Customs Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and the Transportation Security Administration. One newly created agency within this directorate is to attend to visas, work permits, applications for citizenship, and new-citizen services. Another agency will handle border security against illegal immigration, drugs, and terrorists. Another agency is in charge of securing the nation's airports.

The Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response is charged with ensuring that the nation is prepared for and able to recover...

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