United States Department of Homeland Security - Dagger and Cloak

Thursday, 1 November 2007

United States Department of Homeland Security

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), commonly known in the United States as Homeland Security, is a Cabinet department of the Federal Government of the United States with the responsibility of protecting the territory of the United States from terrorist attacks and responding to natural disasters.

Whereas the Department of Defense is charged with military actions abroad, the Department of Homeland Security works in the civilian sphere to protect the United States within, at, and outside its borders. Its goal is to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies, particularly terrorism. On March 1, 2003, the DHS absorbed the now defunct United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and assumed its duties.

With over 200,000 employees, DHS is the third largest cabinet department in the U.S. federal government after the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs. Homeland security policy is coordinated at the White House by the Homeland Security Council, with Frances Townsend as the Homeland Security Advisor. Other agencies with significant homeland security responsibilities include the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Energy.

In response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, President George W. Bush announced the establishment of an Office of Homeland Security (OHS) to coordinate "homeland security" efforts, to be headed by former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge with the title of Assistant to the President for Homeland Security. The name is reminiscent of the British WW2-era Ministry of Home Security.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge took up his duties as OHS director on October 8, 2001.

On March 12, 2002, the Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS), 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 on the part of the administration's detractors about its ineffectiveness. After resigning, Tom Ridge stated that he didn't always agree with the threat level adjustments pushed by other government agencies.

In January 2003, the office was merged into the Department of Homeland Security and the White House Homeland Security Council, both of which were created by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The Homeland Security Council, similar in nature to the National Security Council, retains a policy coordination and advisory role and is led by the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security.
Creation of DHS
The department was established on November 25, 2002, by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. After months of discussion about employee rights and benefits and "rider" portions of the bill, 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 Cabinet agency. Tom Ridge was named secretary on January 24, 2003 and began naming his chief deputies. DHS officially began operations on January 24, 2003, but most of the department's component agencies were not transferred into the new Department until March 1.
It was the largest government reorganization in 50 years (since the United States Department of Defense was created).
After establishing the basic structure of DHS and working to integrate its components and get the department functioning, Ridge announced his resignation on November 30, 2004, following the re-election of President Bush. Bush initially nominated former New York City Police Department 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 (neither were included). The bill itself was also controversial for the presence of unrelated riders, as well as eliminating certain union-friendly civil service and labor protections for department employees. President Bush wanted to ensure senior Homeland Security leadership had the expedited ability to reassign or dismiss an employee for security reasons, 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. The impasse became an issue during the 2002 congressional elections, which resulted in the Republican Party regaining a majority in the U.S. Senate. Soon thereafter, the U.S. Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 without the union-friendly measures, and President Bush signed the bill into law on November 25, 2002. In 2006, a federal court injunction blocked many aspects of the new personnel system named MaxHR as they relate to employee pay and discipline. As a result of the court ruling, DHS announced in early 2007 that it was retooling its pay and performance system and retiring the name MaxHR.

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