What Does the U.S. Need to Do?

The United States and Homeland Security

Read the full chapter (PDF) in the Center for Transatlantic Relations book

Download the entire book (PDF), Transforming Homeland Security: U.S. and European Approaches

Fighting terrorist networks abroad is a vital part of protecting the American people, but it is far from a comprehensive strategy. The United States must also work relentlessly to ensure that we do not suffer any more devastating attacks on our own territory. Homeland security is one of the most complex tasks we face, but complexity is no excuse for inaction. Terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda have the luxury of targeting Americans at the time and place of their choosing.

To be sure, the United States has made some progress in safeguarding the homeland since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Over White House objections, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to consolidate in a single agency border protection, immigration, transportation safety, emergency management and more. The Bush Administration has also created several other new positions and centers. These include the White House Homeland Security Adviser, the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counter Terrorism Center, and the National Security Service in the FBI. The Pentagon has created a new combatant command, the Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and an assistant secretary of defense with responsibility for protecting the homeland.

In 2002, the Department of Homeland Security issued the first National Strategy for Homeland Security and more recently identified the kinds of attacks most likely to cause catastrophic casualties and damage. Washington has also increased funding for federal agencies, state governments and local communities. And some private sector companies have increased security. In June 2005, the Pentagon released its strategy for homeland defense and civil support, which delineated the role of the Department of Defense (DoD) in homeland defense and homeland security over the next decade. (Department of Homeland Security, National Strategy for Homeland Security, July 2002. Department of Defense, Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support, June 2005.)

Lawrence J. Korb is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Senior Adviser to the Center for Defense Information.