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Analysis Homeland Security Act of 2002

Overview

The Department of Homeland Security was created by the federal government in a bid to tame domestic security, this being one of the largest overhauls in security systems and structures ever experienced in fifty years. The rationale behind this monumental task was to harness and consolidate the federal government’s protective and anti-terror systems to ascertain that the process of deploying and coordinating security services is done more harmoniously and effectively.

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Before the close of November 2002, the Homeland Security Bill was enacted by the Congress. This came later after calls for “dramatic reforms” were resonated by President Bush Administration, following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the twin towers at Pentagon and World Trade Centre buildings. The drafting of the Homeland Security Bill began with the publication of National Homeland Security Strategy before the close of July in 2002.

After passing the bill into law, the department was fully charged with the duty of safeguarding the borders of the nation, minimizing the magnitude of disaster outcomes from anthropogenic and natural sources, developing a defense strategy for the nation as well as laying down preventive measures towards curtailing acts of terror at the domestic level.

The total workforce for the Department of Homeland Security stood at about 180,000 employees by the start of 2003 having drawn its human capital from twenty two security and disaster preparedness agencies attached to the federal government.

The department has a mammoth task of ensuring that all the consolidated federal agencies are well coordinated through a unified workforce in a single government department. The department was formally inaugurated by President Bush on 24th day of January 2003 with Governor Tom Ridge at its helm. This paper assesses and critically analyses the Homeland Security Act passed by the United States federal Congress in 2002.

Summary of the Act

Four sub-agencies make up the department. These are technology and intelligence, emergency preparedness, border and transportation security and the Coast Guard and Secret Service. Although each agency has its stipulated responsibilities, they are all coordinated as a team in monitoring domestic security (Douglas & Cynthia, 2007). The two known intelligence intelligences namely CIA and FBI are not part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Congress lashed on the performance of the two agencies after the September 11 attacks, sharply criticizing of having “slept on the job”. Nonetheless, information gathering and analysis from these intelligence agencies are still done by DHS.

The new department is mandated, as per its objectives, to prevent all acts of terror within the U.S borders. In addition, it is supposed to devise strategies of alleviating U.S susceptibility to terrorism. It is also expected to offer emergency response to domestic terrorism and equally reduce the level of damage and suffering to property and human life respectively (Sloan, 2008). On the same note, the department is warranted by law to carry out all the duties consolidated and transferred to it from other federal agencies. Moreover, the department is anticipated to oversee that security effort on homeland security does not at any given point, derail the economic gains and security of the country.

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While the objectives of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are visibly coherent, the Act has also been organized in the sense that there are specific functions the department is supposed to perform. One of these functions includes protecting infrastructure and analyzing security-related information from such agencies such as CIA and FBI. Secondly, it is also mandated to make advances in science and technology to build a robust domestic security. These, among other domestic security roles, are all under DHS.

Border & Transportation Security

Running at a provisional budget of 18 billion U.S dollars, the directorate under the Border and Transportation Security coordinates the functions of both the transportation and security agencies. The primary responsibility of this division is to set up systems and structures for guarding and managing the borders of the nation as well as the transport system. In addition, the overseas territories under the custody of the U.S are also managed by this DHS division.

To perform its functions conclusively, it has consolidated myriad agencies drawn from the central government. For instance, the Border Patrol and INS are both managed by Border and Transportation Security. The Coast Guard does not rely on the wider department to perform its functions. It is directly accountable to the secretary. It liaises with Border and Transportation Security. Some of the functions of the Coast Guard include but are not limited to improving transportation infrastructure alongside guarding ports.

According to the provisions contained in the Homeland Security Act, the INS can be disbanded by the former. Besides, the Act gives authority to secretary in charge of the Homeland Security to either deny or offer visas for immigrants to the United States.

Emergency Preparedness & Response

It takes care of disaster preparedness at the domestic level alongside Offering training and capacity building to First Responders. Furthermore, this division the process of recovering from acts of terror and disasters occasioned by nature is largely boosted by Emergency Preparedness and Response wing. The key role of the directorate is to ensure that there is a high level of disaster preparedness among various teams charged with emergency response.

Hence, an emergency response plan is one of the many strategies employed by this division to cater for hazards and attacks. Under this division are FBI’s National Domestic Preparedness Office as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Steinzo, 2003). Moreover, a national crisis management system is part and parcel of the distinguishing tasks of this wing. To achieve this, it coordinates the working of emergency response teams using some public safety organizations located at the local and state governments.

Science and Technology

This division specifically deals with science and technology behind technological weapons of mass destruction. Hence, all catastrophic acts of terrorism applying either biological or chemical warfare are under the control of this wing of DHS. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 also mandates the science and technology division to set up a national emergency strategy teams at all levels of the government.

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For example, the local and state governments should be well equipped with response teams that are well versed with both the management and disaster recovery skills following nuclear attacks, radiological or chemical terrorism. The overall aim is to synchronize the various response plans to improve efficiency. Further, the development of diagnostics antidotes, antibodies and vaccines is under this division. Better still, the Act provides plenty of room for devising countermeasures that can be instrumental in minimizing the threats of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) attacks.

Information Analysis & Infrastructure Protection

Data collection and analysis is under the docket of Information Analysis and Infrastructure Division. The data to be analyzed are obtained from relevant federal agencies like Department’s Drug Enforcement Agency and National Security Agency. The Homeland Security Act 2002 also established two main units under this division. These are the Critical Infrastructure Protection as well as the Threat Analysis and Warning (Douglas & Cynthia, 2007).

As a core duty, the division ensures that all data gathered and analyzed before the September 11 attacks are not only accurate but also relevant in the actual security operation. Hence, information has been centralized by this wing of the homeland security. The given information is assessed in terms of the potential threats to national security. Additionally, relevant response actions are conveyed to the right teams spread across the federal government. Disparate intelligence information is compiled by the Threat Analysis and Warning wing of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). the level of vulnerability of the nation in terms of catastrophes caused by either man or natural factors is also assessed (Douglas & Cynthia, 2007).

The security information at the domestic level is evaluated by the Critical Infrastructure Protection. In particular, the internal security components of the nation are analyzed by this division of the Homeland security. While the roles of the division are far reaching, the individual officials deployed at this branch are mandated to come up with sound policies that can assist in protecting targets labeled as high risk.

Apart from the provisions of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 outlined above, this grand piece of legislation also stipulates that explosives should not be possessed beyond certain restrictions. Further, the Act also permits training of pilots on how to defend their crew just in case they are exposed to danger of airborne terror attack. It goes further stating that airport screening can only be done by either U.S nationals or citizens. The U.S immigrants are excluded under this provision.

Strengths and weaknesses of the Act

The creation of Operation TIPS is strictly forbidden in the Homeland Security Act of 2002. According to critics, this controversial security organ would have transformed the Department of Homeland Security into a swift intelligence agency with the power and ability to handle efficiently evaluate and manage homeland security. Nonetheless, the main point of concern by the American Liberties Union is that the integration of such legislation into the country’s constitution would grossly jeopardize civil liberties protection. According to the proposals contained in the TIPS provisions, the Liberties Union argue that it will be impossible to grant citizens and other American nationals the right to privacy as granted in the constitution.

The fact that the Department of Homeland Security has express right over controlling infrastructure, a director at ACLU, Laura Murphy, maintained that the department was given superfluous powers over vital infrastructure thereby limiting the public from conducting any significant scrutiny (Sloan, 2008).

According to the provisions in the Act, there is certain infrastructure information that may not be availed to the public especially if the government presumes it unfit for purposes of national security. Indeed, one of the apparent weaknesses in the Act is the fact that any disclosure of the so called ‘critical infrastructure’ information by a government official may lead to heavy imposition of criminal offence on the offender. Hence, whistle blowers on certain matters directly affecting the American public may as well be branded ‘criminals’ since they will have contravened this law. The online privacy of individuals is also undermined at great length by this piece of legislation.

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The Center for Democracy and Technology argue that the Cyber Security Enhancement Act is a real setback to personal online privacy (Sloan, 2008). According to the provisions in this Act, the government has the right, through telecom companies, to access and retrieve personal online data such as internet transactions and emails. The government’s rationale behind this legal provision is that accessing such personal information is pertinent especially if national security is at risk. For telecommunication companies, they have been quite reluctant to avail personal information unless there are court warrants to do so.

Cyber criminals like those who hack computers may be sentenced to life imprisonment as a maximum charge.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also permitted by this law to access and utilize intelligence materials courtesy of the office of TIA. William Safire, a New York Times columnist dismissed this legislative arrangement as “Big Brotherism”. At the same time, TIA was also limited by the Congress. The appropriations bill of the Congress also witnessed a heavily cut down of the TIA budget.

In yet another separate but related developments about the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the indemnification provision has equally sparked widespread protests. This provision has it that class-action law suits filed by citizens against individual or corporate contractors are restricted up to some level. Although the provision does not favor individual citizens and American nationals interested in lodging their complaints against public health menace caused by contractors, the government argues that companies which manufacture lethal vaccines necessary in biological or chemical warfare should be given some incentives to continue with the tedious task of production.

This, according to the government, will shield them from high liability overheads. Worse still, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 that led to the inception of the Department of Homeland Security has faced equally tough criticism from city mayors who lament that the Act failed to provide “money to cities to fight terrorism” (CNN Politics, 2002).

Recommendations and conclusions

What about emergency preparedness? Since September 11, 2001, first responders have made significant progress strengthening capabilities needed to defend the nation against the threat of WMD. The DHS national guidelines developed and implemented nationwide have provided a durable framework for multi-agency coordination and cooperation. This is important because terrorist attacks or major disasters often are beyond what a single jurisdiction can respond to effectively.

However, whether levels of preparedness are adequate at all levels of government may prove difficult to assess. Many emergency response and management professionals believe that the nation is better prepared than it was before 11th September 2001, but still has plenty of room for improvement. For example, priority missions identified in Homeland Security Strategic Plans have associated capabilities taken from the DHS Target Capabilities List (Kirkpatrick & Lockhar LLP, 2003).

Each capability must reach target levels of performance if an adequate level of preparedness is to be achieved. The emergency response community benefits from national standards that allow response entities to coordinate more effectively than before. However, to reiterate, is this level of preparedness where it needs to be? If not, what are the shortfalls and how should they be addressed? The biggest challenge for achieving an appropriate level of preparedness nationwide remains the need for continued strengthening of multi-agency capabilities. Multi-agency preparedness, in terms of multi-agency capabilities achieving target levels of performance, is critical for safeguarding the country.

The September 11 terror attacks brought a lot of safety questions in terms of the country’s state of preparedness. The nation came into realization of various aspects of disaster and its management more than before. New competencies were learnt despite the heavy material and humanitarian losses encountered. One of the action plans which followed immediately after the disaster courtesy of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and Science and Technology Policy Institute was to arrange for a conference which would seek ways of safeguarding response workers bearing in mind that they are the most significant individuals when disasters strike. During the deliberations, individuals pointed out the need of adopting safety practices whenever there are disasters.

To achieve the highest degree of success on disaster management, more practical measures must be adopted in the current times and especially with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in place. In most cases, responder organizations usually make use of the highly tense and chaotic surrounding to make last minute rash decisions on managing a particular disaster. This should not be the case at all. Working out procedures and guidelines in readiness for disaster management should be an on-going, all-encompassing and continuous process due to the changing dynamics of the nature of disasters experienced in modern times. In addition, standardized systems and logically sound procedures cannot be evaded to achieve a desirable disaster or crisis management.

Major disasters pose quite distinctive characteristics which even calls for thorough state of preparedness. There are multiple risks which are usually involved in key disasters hence lack of preparation is a real recipe for unnecessary secondary impacts which can be avoided in totality. The emergency division in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 should not merely exist on paper. It is pertinent to reiterate that major disasters can be varied in terms of magnitude, potential threats as well as economic losses which require a broadband of approach (Harper, 2003).

Usually, the response agencies are conducted to conduct very important prerequisite activities. If such disasters are to be managed well and to the point of satisfaction, then vital resources are needed. The different forms through which major disasters occur also require a variety of ways to manage the disaster.

Since major disasters are not so common, the emergency responders may not adequately assess the viable risks and dangers. Similarly, they may not take prior preparative steps towards complex disaster management. For this reason, training which is barely based on events which have happened makes a huge assumption that indeed all is well. This is the reason why our disaster management capabilities need to be strengthened at all costs despite the popular belief that the country is now more prepared to handle disasters after the September 11 terrorist attacks(Kirkpatrick & Lockhar LLP, 2003).

The fact that major disasters require more than one responder organization to act; there should also be a common understanding in the coordination of activities during major disasters. Each emergency response agent need to be assigned particular roles to avoid duplication of roles during the short intense rescue time for disaster victims. There are several agencies which have pledged to co-work to provide a nationwide policy that will put all the states at a state of preparedness in case of emergencies. One such organization is the National Incident Management systems the magnitude and the nature of many agencies required to manage a disaster is a complicated process.

The Act should come in handy at this point bearing in mind that it can be quite an uphill task to protect the country as a single entity. As a result, how information is gathered, analyzed, interpreted and disseminated is vital. This inevitably calls for the need of standing information systems in place. All information management tools will work towards harmonizing safety management during and even after disasters.

Safety managers have the responsibility of ensuring that information gathered from other organizations is well utilized by invigilation efforts and also giving comparison to the available data to make it viable for use. The information obtained from the hazard is significant in evaluating the degree and urgency of the disaster. Disaster response activities often occupy large areas of operations which might pose further challenges to emergency responders due to more resource utilization in the process.

Management tools can be utilized in this case as a safety management tool. At the same time, it is imperative to offer assistance while protecting the safety of emergency responders. During the process of attending to disaster victims, emergency responders may comprise of not only the multi agency organizations but also volunteering individuals who willingly offer their support. However, the procedure of accounting for these willing individuals is equally very cumbersome. They are not organized to facilitate easy gathering of relevant information. It is therefore difficult to integrate the required safety management procedures.

Information on disasters provides the basis for assessment of the potential risks involved. Safety managers in this case are obliged to input necessary available options. Hence, a well thought out judgment is necessary. In some instances, there may be several people who have been affected by the disaster. This may come in different forms like death, injuries and being maimed. Due to this huge number, it is often challenging to establish the level of success even as the rescue plans is in progress.

The rescue and recovery lines of operation are differentiated. However, making a clear cut difference during certain disaster rescue operations may be a real challenge. Moreover, identifying the extraordinary cases is much easier. For example, the scene of the September 11, 2001 attack and the Crash Flight 93 which took place in Shanks Ville were easily identified promptly. It was also easy to establish that nobody survived. Such immediate feedback enables decision makers to reach at relevant decision making points and take required actions. This is one level of response mechanism that is required if our nation will have to be in a state of optimum preparati0on just in case an inevitable disaster strikes. Likewise, response operations which took place at the site of the World Trade Centre immediately after the terrorist attacks are a vivid indication of a complicated scenario.

This is because the authorities could not make a defining line between the recovery and rescue plans. They were unable to do so due to the prevailing circumstances. Such hindrances should be dealt with well in advance in an attempt to eliminate slow response mechanisms. In summing up, albeit the wide range of multi agency help needed during disasters caused by terrorism and natural factors, the participation of a series of agencies at the site of the disaster can complicate response abilities. In the first place, different organizations have varying ways of responding to emergencies. These differences may be due to several factors like the nature of their operations.

For instance, the strategy which a law enforcing agency will use when responding to an emergency is not the same as the one used by a health organization in tackling a similar disaster. For our country to be able to deal with disaster preparedness and effective risk management procedures, safety managers are supposed to be armed with suitable and working decisions which aim at seeking protective alternatives rather than embracing curative approach in handling disasters. These managers need information which can be easily accessed. The very information should have a high degree of accuracy (Sloan, 2008). Other responding agencies may supply additional safety apparatus.

In particular, the federal agencies should have sufficient cache supply so that a fully integrated program is put into place. Another responsibility which should be shouldered on the safety managers is to make early arrangements with the private institutions to provide for any deficits which may be there in regard to supply. As an essential ingredient to remain in a state of readiness in case of any disaster, responder agencies need to keep clear records which contain their important materials as well as those from outside.

The earliest sessions during the process of responding to an emergency are vital because it will the set the right pace and methodology rolling. Furthermore, there is need to employ the skill and competence from emergency experts. This expertise knowledge will assist in developing the most applicable strategies to adopt in handling the disaster parameter.

References

CNN Politics (2003). Bush signs homeland security bill. Web.

Douglas, A. B. & Cynthia, L. K. (2007). Civil Service Reform as National Security: The Homeland Security Act of 2002. Public Administration Review, 67(3): 399-407.

Harper, L. (2003). Domestic Security: The home front and the war on terrorism, the Homeland Security Act. Web.

Kirkpatrick & Lockhar LLP (2003). Homeland Security Bulletin. Web.

Sloan, E. (2008). Continental and homeland security: From Bush to Obama. International Journal, 64(1): 191-200.

Steinzo, R. (2003). Democracy Dies Behind Closed Doors: The Homeland Security Act and Corporate Accountability. Web.

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