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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and Congressional Considerations



Shawn Reese
Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy

Ten years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. government does not have a single definition for “homeland security.” Currently, different strategic documents and mission statements offer varying missions that are derived from different homeland security definitions. Historically, the strategic documents framing national homeland security policy have included national strategies produced by the White House and documents developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Prior to the 2010 National Security Strategy, the 2002 and 2007 National Strategies for Homeland Security were the guiding documents produced by the White House. In 2011, the White House issued the National Strategy for Counterterrorism.

In conjunction with these White House strategies, DHS has developed a series of evolving strategic documents based on the two national homeland security strategies and include the 2008 Strategic Plan—One Team, One Mission, Securing the Homeland; the 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review and Bottom-Up Review; and the 2012 Department of Homeland Security Strategic Plan. The 2012 DHS strategic plan is the latest evolution in DHS’s process of defining its mission, goals, and responsibilities. This plan, however, only addresses the department’s homeland security purview and is not a document that addresses homeland security missions and responsibilities that are shared across the federal government. Currently, the Department of Homeland Security is developing the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, which is due late 2013 or early 2014.

Varied homeland security definitions and missions may impede the development of a coherent national homeland security strategy, and may hamper the effectiveness of congressional oversight. Definitions and missions are part of strategy development. Policymakers develop strategy by identifying national interests, prioritizing goals to achieve those national interests, and arraying instruments of national power to achieve the national interests. Developing an effective homeland security strategy, however, may be complicated if the key concept of homeland security is not defined and its missions are not aligned and synchronized among different federal entities with homeland security responsibilities.

This report discusses the evolution of national and DHS-specific homeland security strategic documents and their homeland security definitions and missions, and analyzes the policy question of how varied homeland security definitions and missions may affect the development of national homeland security strategy. This report, however, does not examine DHS implementation of strategy.



Date of Report: January 8, 2013
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R42462
Price: $29.95

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