Department of Homeland Security

After the September 11 attacks, the Bush Administration decided that, as with the dozens of pre-FEMA organizations in the 1970s, there were too many government entities that were inefficient. In part this was because there was no formal structure that allowed these various agencies to communicate with each other on a regular basis. The result was a system that was inefficient. The various agencies might be in touch during times of national crisis, but their unfamiliarity with one another might only serve to hinder their efforts. President George W. Bush was convinced that one way to make the nation safer from future attacks was to streamline the government structure and combine several departments that should have a logical connection under one umbrella cabinet-level organization, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Bush proposed the new agency in June 2002, and it was created in March 2003. The first Secretary of Homeland Security was former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge.

Among the government agencies that were gathered under the Homeland Security umbrella were the U.S. Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Transportation Security Administration, the Office for Domestic Preparedness, the Environmental Measurements Laboratory, and the Nuclear Incident Research Team. The Secret Service and the U.S. Coast Guard were also located in the Department of Homeland Security, although remaining intact as independent agencies.

The Department of Homeland Security offers a wide array of information about emergencies and how the public and local officials can deal with them on its web site (www.dhs.gov). It has a special site, www.ready.gov, that offers information on a variety of emergencies such as explosions, attacks, and natural disasters. Through FEMA, DHS also sponsors the Emergency Management Institute. This training program for interested and qualified civilians provides a series of courses on how to deal with emergencies, including preparedness, response, and recovery. It operates two campuses, one in Emmitsburg, Marlyand and one in Anniston, Alabama. Each year more than 5,000 people take courses at the two campuses, while an additional 100,000 take local courses through Emergency Management Institute-sponsored programs.


Inside Department of Homeland Security