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The unprecedented threat from non-state actors capable of inflicting catastrophic destruction demanded an unprecedented response to preserve the safety and security of the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, created by the Homeland Security Act in November 2002, was the largest reorganization of US government since the end of World War II. This section examines the origins, purpose, and evolution of the Department of Homeland Security.


In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, on October 8, 2001, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13228 establishing the Office of Homeland Security within the Executive Office of the President.  Former Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Ridge was appointed Assistant to the President to coordinate a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from terrorist threats and attacks.  Meanwhile, legislation was pending before Congress to create a National Homeland Security Agency.  Based on the recommendations of the US Commission on National Security for the 21st Century (Hart-Rudman Commission), Representative William Thornberry (R-TX) introduced HR 1158 in March 2001.  Shortly after 9/11, on October 11, 2001, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) proposed similar legislation (S. 1534) to create a National Homeland Security Department. In May 2002, Representative Thornberry and Senator Lieberman refined their proposals into the National Homeland Security and Combating Terrorism Act of 2002 (HR 4660).  Then on June 6, 2002, President Bush proposed establishment of a Department of Homeland Security.  The President's plan was built on the recommendations of the various national commissions and legislative proposals already submitted before Congress.  On June 24, 2002, Representative Richard Armey (R-TX) submitted House Resolution 5005 titled the "Homeland Security Act of 2002" calling for establishment of a Department of Homeland Security.  HR 5005 passed the House on July 26 and was handed over to the Senate on July 30, 2002. The Senate debated whether the FBI and CIA should be incorporated into the new Department and other provisions related to employee rights.  Eventually, Senator Lieberman was able to broker a compromise, and on November 20, 2002, the Senate passed HR 5005 by a vote of 90-9.  On November 25, 2002, President Bush signed the bill into law (PL 107-296).  The Department of Homeland Security consolidated 22 federal agencies and 230,000 employees under a single executive department with an initial budget appropriation of $34 billion.  Tom Ridge was appointed the first Secretary of Homeland Security.  On January 23, 2003, President Bush signed Executive Order 13284 activating the Department of Homeland Security.

2001 EO 13228, Establishing the Office of Homeland Security (PDF)
2001 Phase III Report of the US Commission on National Security in the 21st Century (PDF)
2001 HR 1158, To Establish the National Homeland Security Agency (PDF)
2001 S 1534, To Establish the Department of National Homeland Security (PDF)
2002 HR 4660, A Bill to Establish The Department of National Homeland Security (PDF)
2002 President's Proposal for a Department of Homeland Security (PDF)
2002 Homeland Security Act (PDF)
2002 Who Joined DHS (PDF)


The Department of Homeland Security is currently responsible for five broad mission areas identified as follows in the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review:

1. Prevent Terrorism and Enhance Security
2. Secure and Manage Our Borders
3. Enforce and Administer Our Immigration Laws
4. Safeguard and Secure Cyberspace
5. Strengthen National Preparedness and Resilience  

Each mission area has an associated set of goals, also identified as follows in the 2014 QHSR:

1.1 Prevent Terrorist Attacks
1.2 Prevent and Protect Against the Unauthorized Acquisition of Use of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Materials and Capabilities
1.3 Reduce Risk to the Nation’s Critical Infrastructure, Key Leadership, and Events
2.1 Secure U.S. Air, Land, and Sea Borders and Approaches
2.2 Safeguard and Expedite Lawful Trade and Travel
2.3 Disrupt and Dismantle Transnational Criminal Organizations and Other Illicit Actors
3.1 Strengthen and Effectively Administer the Immigration System
3.2 Prevent Unlawful Immigration
4.1 Strengthen the Security and Resilience of Critical Infrastructure
4.2 Secure the Federal Civilian Government Information Technology Enterprise
4.3 Advance Law Enforcement, Incident Response, and Reporting Capabilities
4.4 Strengthen the Ecosystem
5.1 Enhance National Preparedness
5.2 Mitigate Hazards and Vulnerabilities
5.3 Ensure Effective Emergency Response
5.4 Enable Rapid Recovery  

2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (PDF)


Administration priorities and external events have shaped the evolution of the homeland security mission since the Department of Homeland Security was first established in January 2003.  

The original missions of the Department of Homeland Security, as established by the 2002 Homeland Security Act, were as follows:
§101(b)(1)(A) prevent terrorist attacks within the United States;
§101(b)(1)(B) reduce the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism;
§101(b)(1)(C) minimize the damage, and assist in the recovery, from terrorist attacks that do occur within the United States;
§101(b)(1)(D) carry out all functions of entities transferred to the Department, including by acting as a focal point regarding natural and manmade crises and emergency planning;
§101(b)(1)(E) ensure that the functions of the agencies and subdivisions within the Department that are not related directly to securing the homeland are not diminished or neglected except by a specific explicit Act of Congress;
§101(b)(1)(F) ensure that the overall economic security of the United States is not diminished by efforts, activities, and programs aimed at securing the homeland; and
§101(b)(1)(G) monitor connections between illegal drug trafficking and terrorism, coordinate efforts to sever such connections, and otherwise contribute to efforts to interdict illegal drug trafficking.  

2002 Homeland Security Act


The first three missions were suggested by Tom Ridge in the President’s Proposal for a Department of Homeland Security that eventually resulted in the 2002 Homeland Security Act. Shortly after issuing the President’s proposal in June 2002, Mr. Ridge released the first National Strategy for Homeland Security in July 2002.  In this strategy, the three missions are listed as strategic objectives:
1. Prevent terrorist attacks within the United States;
2. Reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism; and
3. Minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur.  

2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security

The 2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security also introduced six “Critical Mission Areas” as follows:
1. Intelligence and Warning
2. Border and Transportation Security
3. Domestic Counterterrorism
4. Protecting Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets
5. Defending against Catastrophic Threats
6. Emergency Preparedness and Response  

The six critical mission areas were devised to align and focus the Department’s functions with the three strategic objectives.  According to the 2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security: “The first three mission areas focus primarily on preventing terrorist attacks; the next two on reducing our Nation’s vulnerabilities; and the final one on minimizing the damage and recovering from attacks that do occur.”  

After Tom Ridge became the first Secretary of Homeland Security, he issued a strategic plan for implementing the 2002 National Homeland Security Strategy.  The 2004 Strategic Plan further enunciated seven goals to “guide the full breadth of [DHS] activities (both terrorism and non-terrorism related):”
1. Awareness:  Identify and understand threats, assess vulnerabilities, determine potential impacts and disseminate timely information to our homeland security partners and the American public.
2. Prevention: Detect, deter and mitigate threats to our homeland.
3. Protection: Safeguard our people and their freedoms, critical infrastructure, property and the economy of our nation from acts of terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies.
4. Response: Lead, manage and coordinate the national response to acts of terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies.
5. Recovery: Lead national, state, local and private sector efforts to restore services and rebuild communities after acts of terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies.
6. Service: Serve the public effectively by facilitating lawful trade, travel and immigration.
7. Organizational Excellence: Value our most important resource, our people. Create a culture that promotes a common identity, innovation, mutual respect, accountability and teamwork to achieve efficiencies, effectiveness and operational synergies.  

2002 President’s Proposal for a Department of Homeland Security
2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security
2004 Department of Homeland Security Strategic Plan

As a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a revised homeland security strategy was issued in 2007 adding natural disasters and catastrophic accidents to concerns about terrorism.  The 2007 National Strategy for Homeland Security introduced the term “all-hazards” to encompass both natural and manmade catastrophic threats.  The 2007 National Strategy for Homeland Security revised the previous strategic objectives to accommodate this expanded view of the threat and address criticism of the Department’s performance during Hurricane Katrina:
1. Prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks;
2. Protect the American people, our critical infrastructure, and key resources;
3. Respond to and recover from incidents that do occur; and
4. Continue to strengthen the foundation to ensure our long-term success.    

In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security issued a new strategic plan translating the new all-hazards strategy into six strategic goals:
1. Protect Our Nation from Dangerous People
2. Protect Our Nation from Dangerous Goods
3. Protect Critical Infrastructure
4. Strengthen Our Nation’s Preparedness and Emergency Response Capabilities
5. Strengthen and Unify DHS Operations and Management  

The 2008 strategic plan further delineated each strategic goal into a set of corresponding objectives:
1.1 Achieve Effective Control of Our Borders
1.2 Protect Our Interior and Enforce Immigration Laws
1.3 Strengthen Screening of Travelers and Workers
1.4 Improve Security through Enhanced Immigration Services
2.1 Prevent and Detect Radiological/Nuclear Attacks
2.2 Prevent, Detect, and Protect Against Biological Attacks
2.3 Prevent and Detect Chemical and Explosive Attacks
2.4 Prevent the Introduction of Illicit Contraband while Facilitating Trade
3.1 Protect and Strengthen the Resilience of the Nation’s Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources
3.2 Ensure Continuity of Government Communications and Operations
3.3 Improve Cyber Security
3.4 Protect Transportation Sectors
4.1 Ensure Preparedness
4.2 Strengthen Response and Recovery
5.1 Improve Department Governance and Performance
5.2 Advance Intelligence and Information Sharing
5.3 Integrate DHS Policy, Planning, and Operations Coordination  

2007 National Strategy for Homeland Security
2008 Department of Homeland Security Strategic Plan

Also as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security in 2010 undertook its first Quadrennial Homeland Security Review mandated by Congress with the "Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007".  According to the 2010 QHSR, Congress initiated the review process to “delineate a homeland security strategy, including an outline of priority mission areas” in order “to better understand the resource and organizational implications of an evolving strategic view of homeland security.” Consequently, the QHSR was undertaken to answer basic questions that “still echoed widely” eight years after 9/11 such as ““What is homeland security?” “How is the homeland best made secure?” “What does it mean to be prepared?” In answer to these questions, the 2010 QHSR reframed the missions and objectives of the Department to encompass both manmade threats and natural hazards. The most significant change to homeland security policy introduced by the 2010 QHSR was that it elevated cyber attack as a threat on a par with 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.   

2010 QHSR Missions:
1. Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security
2. Securing and Managing Our Borders
3. Enforcing and Administering Our Immigration Laws
4. Safeguarding and Securing Cyberspace
5. Ensuring Resilience to Disasters  

2010 QHSR Goals:
1.1 Prevent Terrorist Attacks
1.2 Prevent the Unauthorized Acquisition or Use of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Materials and Capabilities
1.3 Manage Risks to Critical Infrastructure, Key Leadership, and Events
2.1 Effectively Control U.S. Air, Land, and Sea Borders
2.2 Safeguard Lawful Trade and Travel
2.3 Disrupt and Dismantle Transnational Criminal Organizations
3.1 Strengthen and Effectively Administer the Immigration System
3.2 Prevent Unlawful Immigration
4.1 Create a Safe, Secure, and Resilient Cyber Environment
4.2 Promote Cybersecurity Knowledge and Innovation
5.1 Mitigate Hazards
5.2 Enhance Preparedness
5.3 Ensure Effective Emergency Response
5.4 Rapidly Recover  

2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review


In response to the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, the Department of Homeland Security in 2012 released a new Strategic Plan.  The 2012 Strategic Plan is built around the missions and goals enunciated in the 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.  Pursuant to the new law, the new plan identifies performance goals as a way to measure accomplishment of the Department’s mission. In 2014 the Department repeated this process issuing a new Strategic Plan following release of the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.   

2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act
2012 Department of Homeland Security Strategic Plan
2014 Department of Homeland Security Strategic Plan