(From Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) became the 15th cabinet department on Jan. 24, 2003. It began as the Office of Homeland Security (OHS), an agency established by George W. Bush's presidential order in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The stated mission of the department is to develop and carry out a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States against terrorist threats or attacks. Its task is to coordinate efforts by the executive branch to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks within the nation's borders. To accomplish these objectives, the DHS works with other executive departments and agencies, state and local governments, and private entities, seeking to establish unified law-enforcement policies, guard national health, secure transportation, and protect infrastructure—as an example, the DHS now oversees and helps fund the internal-security activities of 2 million police, firefighters, medical personnel, and other first responders around the country.

In November 2002 the president signed legislation that made the OHS the cabinet-level DHS, with Tom Ridge, who had previously headed the OHS, as secretary; Ridge served until early 2005. The department, which became fully operational on Mar. 1, 2003, brought together about 170,000 federal employees from 22 previously disparate federal agencies with security-related functions. It is made up of five major divisions, or directorates. The Directorate of Border and Transportation Security has absorbed, among other units, the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Border Patrol, and the Transportation Security Administration (formerly within the Department of Transportation). Emergency Preparedness and Response includes the former Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Science and Technology Directorate coordinates research and development. Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection provides a clearinghouse to analyze terrorist-related intelligence information from all sources, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, which are not part of the new department. The fifth directorate is Management, which handles budget and administration. In addition, the Homeland Security Department includes the following government agencies: the U.S. Coast Guard; the Secret Service; and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which has taken over most of the responsibilities of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The creation of the Department of Homeland Security constitutes the largest reorganization within the federal government since the creation of the Defense Department in 1947. The secretary of the DHS is now 18th in the line of succession for the presidency, ranking after the secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department. The DHS's first-year budget amounted to $37.7 billion.

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