Homeland Security, United States Department of

Homeland Security, United States Department of

(DHS), executive department of the federal government charged with protecting the security of the American homeland as its main responsibility. Its primary missions are preventing terrorists attacks within the United States, reducing the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism, and minimizing the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters. Established in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks (see Pentagon, thePentagon, the,
building accommodating the U.S. Dept. of Defense. Located in Arlington, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., the Pentagon is a vast five-sided building designed by Los Angeles architect G. Edwin Bergstrom.
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 and World Trade CenterWorld Trade Center,
former building complex in lower Manhattan, New York City, consisting of seven buildings and a shopping concourse on a 16-acre (6.5-hectare) site; it was destroyed by a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
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), the department unifies formerly dispersed nonmilitary government agencies that are responsible for many functions related to American security.

The Border and Transportation Security division, which is the largest division of DHS, includes the Transportation Security Administration, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. The Emergency Preparedness and Response division, which includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Strategic National Stockpile and the National Disaster Medical System. oversees disaster preparedness training and coordinates the government response to disasters. The Science and Technology division, including the Environmental Measurements Laboratory, is charged with researching and organizing scientific, engineering, and technological resources to protect the homeland, and the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection division analyzes intelligence and information involving threats to homeland security and evaluates vulnerabilities in the national infrastructure. In addition to these divisions, DHS also includes the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, and the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

DHS was created by the Department of Homeland Security Act of 2002, and is an outgrowth of the Office of Homeland Security established by President George W. Bush after Sept. 11, 2001. Strong congressional support for a new federal department that would unify diverse and overlapping security functions of the federal government led to a White House proposal for the DHS in June, 2002, and the legislation was passed late the same year. Twenty-two agencies that were formerly in the Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Justice, Transportation, and Treasury departments or in independent agencies were combined and reorganized in the new department. (Among the agencies with functions relating to homeland security that were not included in DHS were the Federal Bureau of InvestigationFederal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI), division of the U.S. Dept. of Justice charged with investigating all violations of federal laws except those assigned to some other federal agency.
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, Central Intelligence AgencyCentral Intelligence Agency
(CIA), independent executive bureau of the U.S. government established by the National Security Act of 1947, replacing the wartime Office of Strategic Services (1942–45), the first U.S. espionage and covert operations agency.
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, and National Security AgencyNational Security Agency
(NSA), an independent agency within the U.S. Dept. of Defense. Founded by presidential order in 1952, its primary functions are to collect and analyze communications intelligence information and data and to protect the security of U.S.
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.) The creation of DHS involved the largest restructuring of the executive branch of the federal government since the Defense Dept. was established (1947–49). Tom RidgeRidge, Tom
(Thomas Joseph Ridge), 1945–, U.S. politician and government official, first secretary of Homeland Security (2003–5), b. Munhall, Pa. A graduate of Harvard (1967) and the Dickinson School of Law (1972) who served (1968–70) in the infantry in Vietnam,
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, who had been appointed (Oct., 2001) to head the Office of Homeland Security, became the first secretary of the department on Jan. 24, 2003. The affected agencies were transferred to the new department beginning in Mar., 2003. DHS is the third largest executive department in the federal government.


See M. Chertoff, Homeland Security: Assessing the First Five Years (2009); M. Barkun, Chasing Phantoms: Reality, Imagination, and Homeland Security since 9/11 (2011).

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