Special Report—United We Stand

The Department of Homeland Security

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
WHAT WILL THE DEPARTMENT DO?
LOOKING AHEAD
RELATED LINKS

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On November 25, 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the Homeland Security Act of 2002. This act added the Department of Homeland Security to the executive departments that make up the Cabinet in the executive branch of the government. As stated in the Homeland Security Act, the primary mission of the Department of Homeland Security includes preventing terrorist attacks in the United States, making the nation less vulnerable to terrorism at home, and minimizing damage and assisting in recovery from any attacks that may occur. President Bush proposed the creation of this department as part of his administration's response to the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

The creation of the Department of Homeland Security is the largest and most extensive reorganization of federal agencies since the National Security Act of 1947. Passed under the leadership of President Harry S Truman, the National Security Act placed the Army, Navy, and Air Force under the control of a single executive department, the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense is the present-day successor to two former Cabinet-level agencies: the War Department, created by Congress in 1789, and the Navy Department, created in 1798. The National Security Act also created the Central Intelligence Agency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the National Security Council.

WHAT WILL THE DEPARTMENT DO?

  • The Department of Homeland Security will coordinate actions intended to prevent attacks and actions related to counterterrorism. It will employ approximately 170,000 people from 22 different federal agencies already in existence. Among these agencies are the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), the Coast Guard, and the U.S. Border Patrol. The work of the Department of Homeland Security will include contributions from such agencies and offices as the Counterterrorism Office in the Department of State, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

  • President Bush named Tom Ridge, the former Governor of Pennsylvania, as the Secretary of Homeland Security. The President appointed Secretary of the Navy Gordon England as Deputy Secretary and Asa Hutchinson, head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, as Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security.

  • The department will be organized into four divisions (PDF, 41 KB).
    • Border and transportation security
    • Emergency preparedness and response
    • Countermeasures for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear attacks
    • New intelligence clearinghouse
    Each division is assigned responsibility for specific tasks.

  • As part of its homeland security measures, the Bush administration instituted a Homeland Security advisory system which provides a daily update of the risk of terrorist attack. The system uses a code of colors, red alert being the most severe and green the safest. This information is available to the public.

LOOKING AHEAD

The creation of the Department of Homeland Security goes a long way toward ensuring the nation's safety and protecting against future terrorist attacks within the United States. When he signed the act, President Bush said, "In the last 14 months, every level of our government has taken steps to be better prepared against a terrorist attack. … The Homeland Security Act of 2002 takes the next critical steps in defending our country."

RELATED LINKS

The White House

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Defense

Central Intelligence Agency

National Security Agency

United States House of Representatives

The United States Senate