Department of Homeland Security: Need for more inter-linkages to Combat Terrorism
The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is an agency created after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The agency was mandated to administer and harmonize a comprehensive national strategy to prevent and manage any future attacks. It is made of six main components that are organized to work independently but in communication with each other in countering terrorism.
The first one is the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) which is tasked with securing the borders to limit and eliminate infiltration of terrorists and weapons that may be used against the citizens of the United States. This is done through physical manning of the borders as well as regulations of items that enter the country through customs. In collaboration with this is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency (Reese 2013). This agency enforces immigration laws as well as securing cyberspace for all citizens and visitors to the United States. On the other hand, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is mandated with securing all commercial modes of transport on land, air, pipelines, rail, and highways.
While on water security is offered by the United States Coast Guard (USCG). The USCG is the only military component of the DHS that secures rivers, seas, lakes, and all maritime infrastructures. The final component of DHS is the United States Secret Service (USSS) which is mandated with securing the financial system as well as providing security to the president and all other dignitaries. In the event that there is a terrorist attack, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is mandated to prepare to deal with the catastrophe as well as offer relief to citizens (Bellavita 2003).
In my opinion, CBP and the TSA play the largest role in counter-terrorism. These two missions are involved with the actual vetting and physical search of would-be terrorists and their tools of the trade. The TSA handles pat-down and screening using the Screening of Passengers by Observational Techniques (SPOT) (Bellavita 2011). This random checks and mandatory pat-downs for anyone boarding a plane is physically demanding in the face of maintaining individual rights to privacy; as well as maintaining proper personal space for the travelers. On the other CBP has to man the borders and conduct checks across popular entry points used by immigrants who are willing to put their own lives in danger just to get into the United States. The sheer size of the area that needs to be covered is a staffing concern for the national government and the CBP who face financial constraints.
On a policy level, the individual missions perform their required mandate and role in countering terrorism. The missions, however, need to take a concerted effort towards integrating their resources and information pools. This is because the few incidences that have occurred since September 11, 2001, have been due to red tape in protocol and delegation within the DHS. There is also a need to get a consensus on what is a priority in terms of national security.
The current DHS structure has combine law enforcement agencies the ICE with disaster management agencies like FEMA; and immigration and an intelligence agency like USSS. This provides challenges in the delegation of authority, budgeting and accountability. Each agency is responsible for the same aspect of national security, however, in the real world, the issues overlap. When there are overlaps certain concerns fall through the cracks or are overlooked. It is not until there is a catastrophe that these gaping holes are revealed but it is usually too late for the victims and their families. Information sharing and clearly set out roles and functions within the various missions will be critical in counter-terrorism in the future.
Bellavita, Christopher. (2011). A new perspective on homeland security. Homeland Security Watch. http://www.hlswatch.com/2011/12/20/a-new-perspective-on-homeland-security/
Reese, Shawn. (2013). Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and Congressional Considerations. Congressional Research Service 7-5700. http://www.crs.gov. R42462
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