United States Department of Homeland Security

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The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a Cabinet department of the federal government of the United States that is concerned with protecting America's people from harm and its property from damage. This department was created primarily from a conglomeration of existing federal agencies in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Contents

History

The department was established on November 25, 2002 by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and officially began operation on January 24, 2003. After months of discussion about employee rights and benefits and "rider" portions of the bill, Congress passed it shortly after the midterm elections, and it was signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush. It was intended to consolidate U.S. executive branch organizations related to "homeland security" into a single agency.

It was the largest government reorganization in 50 years (since the United States Department of Defense was created). The department assumed a number of government functions previously in other departments. It superseded, but did not replace the Office of Homeland Security, which retained an advisory role.

The new Department was initially headed by former governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge, who had chaired the Office of Homeland Security since October 2001. On November 30, 2004, Ridge announced his resignation. President Bush chose former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik as his successor, but on December 10, Kerik withdrew his nomination citing personal reasons and saying it "would not be in the best interests" of the country for him to pursue the post. On January 11, 2005, President Bush nominated federal judge Michael Chertoff to succeed Ridge. Chertoff was confirmed on February 15, 2005, by a vote of 98-0 in the U.S. Senate. He was sworn in the same day.

Controversy about adoption centered on whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency should be incorporated in part or in whole (both were not). The bill itself was also controversial for the presence of unrelated riders, as well as eliminating some standard civil service and labor protections from employees of the department. President Bush wanted the right to fire an employee within Homeland Security immediately for security reasons, for incompetence, or insubordination. Then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle wanted an appeals process that could take up to 18 months or as little as one month.

On March 12, 2002, the Homeland Security Advisory System, a color-coded terrorism risk advisory scale, was created as a Presidential Directive to provide a "comprehensive and effective means to disseminate information regarding the risk of terrorist acts to Federal, State, and local authorities and to the American people." Many procedures at government facilities are keyed off of the alert level; for example a facility may search all entering vehicles when the alert is above a certain level. Since January 2003, it has been administered in coordination with the DHS; it has also been the target of frequent jokes and ridicule about its perceived ineffectiveness.

Grants

The Department of Homeland Security occasionally gives grants to universities and corporations for developing technologies which could be useful for its activities. For example, in February 2005 a team of researchers from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and Lucent Technologies received a $800,000 grant from the US Department of Homeland Security to evaluate modern data-mining methods for discovering behavior patterns which could be a threat to the national security.

More information about the grant to UCR and Lucent

Organization

On July 13, 2005, Secretary Chertoff announced that DHS would be undergoing a reorganization which should be completed by October 2005. The reorganization includes the dissolving of the Directorates of Border and Transportation Security and Emergency Planning and Response and the creation of Directorates of Policy and Preparedness.

Related legislation

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References

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