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Homeland Security Concepts in the United States

Essay 1: Risk Management

Risk management (RM) is a complex activity that has been undertaken by the US government structures for the tasks related to homeland defense (HD) and homeland security (HS). According to the Department of Homeland Security [DHS] (2010), some of the structures that are involved in RM include the DHS (2010) Risk Steering Committee, as well as the Office of Risk Management and Analysis. In this essay, the HD- and HS-related RM practices will be detailed to demonstrate that they have a significant impact on the country’s ability to manage HD and HS risks.

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The aims of using RM in this context are to assess the most important HS and HD threats and use this information to prioritize activities and allocate resources accordingly (Moteff, 2005). Regarding the specific activities that have been undertaken to ensure RM, they include the development of RM standards (including standard lexicon) and RM training for the personnel. Furthermore, DHS (2010) and the Department of Defense [DOD] (2003) report that the US structures strive to ensure integrated RM. In other words, the core principles of the RM in this context consist of enabling cooperation through standardization and resource oversight. These features are beneficial and should result in reasonable resource allocation.

The practices of RM in the US include varied approaches to the assessment of risks (for instance, absolute and normalized risks) and their countermeasures (including, for example, cost-effectiveness analysis). The common variables for RM include “threat, vulnerability, and risk,” as well as consequences (Moteff, 2005, p. 4). Moteff (2005) points out that identifying all these variables is a complex activity that requires extensive development and standardized procedures to ensure the accuracy of the data used. Furthermore, the lists of threats and vulnerabilities and their prioritization are debatable. As a result, it is important to review the benefits and drawbacks of RM in the US.

The approach to HS and HD in the US and its various elements are not without criticisms. Among other things, the ability of the multiple bodies to effectively and efficiently cooperate has been called into question with coordination, integration, and guidelines being critiqued (Dale, Serafino, & Towell, 2008). In other words, while the relevant organizations attempt to ensure cooperation, it is questionable if they actually succeed. For an improved RM and resource allocation, it may be necessary to revise those structures.

Furthermore, Moteff (2005) highlights the importance of engaging the public and private agencies into the process of compiling the lists of threats and prioritizing them. According to the author, the responsible bodies typically perform such analysis by determining the vulnerabilities and especially consequences of negative events rather than incorporating public interests and input into the process. While there is some validity to prioritizing national interests, the resolution of conflicts of interest requires careful consideration. Local and sub-federal institutions are crucial actors (Tulak, Kraft, & Silbaugh, 2004); it is reasonable to involve them in the decision-making that will impact their access to resources.

Moteff’s (2005) analysis demonstrates that RM is very complex, especially when it is considered in the context of national security. There are multiple interests to balance and a limited amount of resources that can be allocated. The use of RM is a major advantage that enables the justified distribution of funding. However, it is important to enable sufficient oversight for RM, which would continue to propose improvement options. The identified issues can have an impact on the way crucial resources are distributed, which further highlights the significance of RM for the ability of the national and local bodies to ensure HS and HD.

Essay 2: The Problem of Definitions

HD and HS are difficult to define, especially since multiple definitions have been proposed over time. Moreover, it is not uncommon to conflate the two or suggest definitions that closely overlap, which makes distinguishing between the terms more difficult (Bellavita, 2006; Goss, 2006). Table 1 summarizes the definitions of HD and HS that appear or are implied in the referenced readings and demonstrates that there is no unified definition for either phenomenon, which can have adverse consequences.

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Table 1. Definitions for Homeland Defense and Homeland Security.

Homeland Defense Homeland Security
“The protection of United States territory” from external threats (DOD, 2003, p. 2); protection of the country’s sovereignty (Goss, 2006) All hazards (Bellavita, 2006; DOD, 2003)
Protection of the population of the US from external threats (DOD, 2003, p. 2) Terror attacks prevention, mitigation, and recovery (Bellavita, 2006; Goss, 2006).
Infrastructure defense from external threats (DOD, 2003, p. 2) Terror and catastrophes (Bellavita, 2006)
Can involve addressing terror attacks in cases of emergencies (Goss, 2006) Part of national security concerned with sovereignty, population, and infrastructure (Bellavita, 2006)
  Negotiable meaning (depends on the state) (Bellavita, 2006)
  Symbolical meaning (Bellavita, 2006)

As can be seen from this summary, the definitions of the two terms are contentious and often conflated. When the two are differentiated, HD is typically defined more narrowly with a focus on external threats to the internal life of the US, especially its people, territory, and infrastructure (Goss, 2006). Conversely, HS is broader, but it is also meant for terror-related threats (Bellavita, 2006; Goss, 2006). Thus, the classic definitions of HS and HD do not rule their overlap out, but they are still rather distinct.

However, over time, other types of hazards, especially catastrophes, have been added to HS as well. Furthermore, HD may include terror attacks, which are generally considered an HS area (Bellavita, 2006; Goss, 2006). Similarly, Bellavita (2006) reports that the idea of describing HS with the help of the traditionally-HD elements has been voiced. Finally, Bellavita (2006) also comments on the perspectives which suggest that the terms’ meanings are cultural and negotiable; for example, individual states may be invited to develop their own definitions.

The definition problem is not just a debate about semantics; it has some real-life consequences. Confusion about terminology can lead to confusion about bodies’ responsibilities (Goss, 2006), which may exacerbate the longstanding cooperation problems in the HD and HS structures (Dale et al., 2008). Furthermore, HD and HS may be attributed different levels of urgency, and the assessment, prioritization, and funding of services and operations may be affected by the definition problem (Bellavita, 2006; Goss, 2006). Overall, ensuring unified definitions for these terms is not unimportant.

Thus, while it is possible to claim that HS is predominantly associated with terrorism prevention and recovery, it is not the only possible definition. Individual authors can subscribe to a particular idea, but the fact that there are so many diverse perspectives on the definitions implies that there can be some confusion. This confusion can result in negative outcomes for the activities that are connected to security and defense. Since mistakes in those areas are critically important to avoid, it is reasonable to call for the differentiation of the two terms.

Essay 3: Infrastructure Protection Program

The US national infrastructure protection program (NIPP) has been developed to ensure the survivability of infrastructure, especially critical infrastructure (CI), during adverse events (from natural disasters to terror attacks). CI can be defined as the infrastructure, the existence of which is critical for the community’s functioning. It incorporates water and electricity supply, transportation, and communication systems (Department of Homeland Security [DHS], 2013; DOD, 2003; Moteff, 2005). The current state of NIPP prioritizes cooperation, outcomes, and continuous development, which increases the likelihood of it exploiting various opportunities for ongoing improvement.

DHS (2013) reports that NIPP exists to accomplish the vision of secure CI, and its mission is to improve CI’s security. In agreement with that, the goals of NIPP include the assessment of risks and RM of CI, which should be carried out while taking into account the related costs and improving CI resilience. In addition, NIPP agencies are involved in intelligence and information sharing and ensure the use of various events and incidents as learning opportunities. All these goals are critical for CI survivability, which is crucial for NIPP.

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Other NIPP elements include specific priorities, which are modified goals that depend on the nation’s and CI’s needs, and performance measures (DHS, 2013). DHS (2013) points out that the national and regional bodies are supposed to develop priorities that are in line with the general, national ones, which highlights the importance of what DHS (2013) terms as CI community. This system is designed to be goal-driven and outcome-oriented, and it can provide CI protection activities with the needed structure.

Some of the benefits of NIPP include the requirement for collaboration with CI owners, including private and public CI, as well as the interaction between different CI sectors. Several overseeing bodies include the Sectors and Cross-Sector Councils, which consist of CI representatives, as well as government (the Federal Council and the Council of State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Governments) and mixed (Regional Consortium Coordinating Council and Information Sharing Organizations) bodies (DHS, 2013). While coordination is important, the US government’s tendency to bureaucracy, which is difficult to control, may be a problem (Moteff, 2005). However, the need for integrating different stakeholders and providing them with voice is reflected in the coordination of the named councils.

Additionally, the CI community and its activities are subject to continuous assessment, and suggestions for improvement are made regularly both within the community and outside of it. For example, in 2013, an Executive Order by the President of the US was issued to require improved coordination between federal CI community and individual owners of CI, as well as some advancements in the quality and efficiency (especially timeliness) of CI activities (DHS, 2013).

While these recommendations indicate a presence of issues, they also imply that the system is able and has been pushed to asses and improve itself. DHS (2013) additionally claims that the dissemination of the most advanced RM practices, as well as the upgrading of such practices, is one of the goals of NIPP. In other words, NIPP is centered around continuous improvement, which implies that it can become better with time.

To summarize, NIPP discloses its core ideas and principles to demonstrate its focus on cooperation, goals, and outcomes, as well as self-assessment. All these features are very positive, and the fact that they are incorporated into the national plan implies multiple opportunities for improvement. This advantage mitigates the fact that recently, NIPP has been required to make some improvements to its practices and advance its quality. After all, as NIPP devises and tests new advancements in CI protection, it will be able to improve its performance, ensuring the survivability of CI.

Essay 4: The Intelligence Community Elements

The US intelligence community (IC) is a complex net of organizations that are engaged in obtaining intelligence and counterintelligence and supporting intelligence operations. Certain faults in it were found after 9/11, which prompted an Intelligence Commission to require a number of reforms. An analysis of the response of the different elements of IC to those reforms can offer some insights into their ability to contribute to HS intelligence. It is generally assumed that IC has been seeing some improvement, but additional efforts may be required to maximize its elements’ contributions and their exchange.

IC incorporates different bodies that are united by their function of obtaining intelligence. IC’s core element is the Central Intelligence Agency, but apart from that, there the intelligence services and offices of various other state bodies (Harknett & Stever, 2011). For example, DOD (2003) has been instituted for HD and civil support, but its access to intelligence and counterintelligence determined the inclusion of some of its offices and services into IC. Furthermore, it can be argued that IC’s activities are augmented by the state-level and local agencies, especially since, as pointed out by Jones (2011), IC is supposed to be an integrated community of different-level agencies. Therefore, there are at least two types of IC elements that require investigation.

The research on IC’s federal government elements is not scarce. The problems with them have been framed in terms that are similar to the criticisms of the American HS and HD systems in general. Thus, the issues of bureaucracy, inefficient cooperation, and problems with coordination are commonly cited, especially after 9/11 (Dale et al., 2008; Harknett & Stever, 2011; Jones, 2011).

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To be more precise, IC, as well as the term itself, existed before 9/11 in a rather disorganized form, but the event of 9/11 was viewed as IC’s failure that needed to be rectified by reforming the system and incorporating domestic and foreign intelligence (Harknett & Stever, 2011; Wasem, 2011). Consequently, a Commission was gathered, and it proposed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which was supposed to resolve IC’s problems.

However, certain authors are critical of the outcomes of IC’s response to the Act. Thus, when governmental elements are concerned, researchers recognize the achievements of the Act, including the establishment of a director, which was supposed to improve the coordination within IC (Harknett & Stever, 2011). However, they also focus on the fragmented nature of IC, its ongoing bureaucracy, and difficulties with ensuring oversight (Harknett & Stever, 2011; Jones, 2011). Also, while it is recognized that after 9/11, IC became better at ensuring the exchange of information, this improvement did not disincentivize agencies from hoarding data (Jones, 2011). Thus, there remains room for improvement as far as cooperation is concerned.

Moreover, Jones (2011) highlights the observation that the contribution of non-governmental agencies is limited because they are not given an important, central role in intelligence analysis. Simultaneously, the author argues that their perspectives are critical, especially for domestic intelligence. Given that the integration of domestic and foreign intelligence has been complicated since the beginning (Harknett & Stever, 2011), local agencies may need to be valued and engaged to a greater extent.

To summarize, the current IC is dominated by its governmental, federal elements, which also remain rather disconnected and lack oversight. Research suggests that the post-9/11 Act was useful and did result in many improvements, which facilitated information exchange for different IC elements. However, with little attention paid to disincentivizing information hoarding and empowering local agencies, changes may be required in order to assist IC contributors in realizing their potential and combining domestic and foreign intelligence.


Bellavita, C. (2006). Changing Homeland Security: What is Homeland Security? Homeland Security Affairs, 4(1), 1-57.

Dale, C., Serafino, N. M., & Towell, P. (2008). Organizing the U.S. government for national security: Overview of the interagency reform debates

Department of Defense. (2003). The DoD role in homeland security. Web.

Department of Homeland Security. (2010). DHS Risk Lexicon. Web.

Department of Homeland Security. (2013). NIPP 2013: Partnering for critical infrastructure security and resilience. Web.

Goss, T. (2006). Who’s in charge? New challenges in Homeland Defense and Homeland Security. Homeland Security Affairs, 2(2), 1-22.

Harknett, R. J., & Stever, J. A. (2011). The struggle to reform intelligence after 9/11. Public Administration Review, 71(5), 700-706. Web.

Jones, J. B. (2011). The Necessity of Federal Intelligent Sharing with Sub-Federal Agencies. Texas Review of Law & Politics, 16, 175-210.

Moteff, J. (2005). Risk management and critical infrastructure protection: Assessing, integrating, and managing threats, vulnerabilities and consequences

Tulak, A. N., Kraft, R. W., & Silbaugh, D. (2004). State defense forces and homeland security

Wasem, R. E. (2011). Visa security policy: Roles of the Departments of State and Homeland Security. Current Politics and Economics of the United States, 14(2/3), 209-237.

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