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RELEASE: CAP Report Offers a New Vision for the Department of Homeland Security for the Modern Era

Washington, D.C. – As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Center for American Progress today issued a major new report and video with key recommendations on how to reform the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the modern era.

The report urges the Biden administration and Congress to update DHS’s mission to elevate its focus on safety and services alongside its traditional protecting roles. This pivot would move the agency toward a model that would better serve the country.

“Recalibrating the DHS mission would provide greater value to Americans and allow the agency and its workforce to play a more effective role in the federal bureaucracy,” said Mara Rudman, executive vice president for policy at CAP. “Policymakers should focus on identifying how the agency can provide maximum return on investment for the American people and define the department’s role in that context.”

The proposed framework for DHS would bring the department’s existing responsibilities into balance and realign its priorities around five new core values—connecting, communicating, facilitating, welcoming, and helping. In recommending this shift, CAP acknowledges that threats to Americans’ safety and security will continue to require a strong and coordinated response from DHS.

DHS’s complicated web of responsibilities means that it is spread thin in its multiple roles. Many of the most serious threats to America’s safety and prosperity—natural disasters, pandemic disease, cyberattacks, and domestic extremists, including violent white supremacists—are borderless or originate at home. In an era of increased movement of people and goods across borders, the report highlights that the country needs a DHS that prioritizes the rule of law, and one that protects all Americans as well as everyone who comes to live, study, work, travel, and seek safety in the United States.

The department’s founding focus—to prevent another 9/11-style attack—continues to influence its outsize focus on counterterrorism. Yet entities such as the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center are often in the lead statutorily. Too often, the dominant focus on international counterterrorism and heavy-handed immigration enforcement comes at the expense of other activities for which DHS is primarily responsible, such as providing efficient, safe, and respectful immigration services; facilitating international trade and travel; serving as the nation’s risk adviser for critical infrastructure; and proactively responding to disasters that do not fall within the missions of other parts of the federal bureaucracy.

To reach its conclusions, CAP conducted a qualitative study and review of DHS informed by discussions with more than 35 stakeholders—including former and current government officials, policy experts, and civil society members—from November 2020 to May 2021.

Read the report: “Redefining Homeland Security: A New Framework for DHS To Meet Today’s Challenges” by Mara Rudman, Rudy deLeon, Joel Martinez, Elisa Massimino, Silva Mathema, Katrina Mulligan, Alexandra Schmitt, and Philip E. Wolgin.

Watch the video outlining CAP’s recommendations here.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at  or Claudia Montecinos at .