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Homeland Security and Homeland Defense

Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created and became the federal agency responsible for coordinating the nation’s security efforts. Today, just past the twenty-first anniversary of the horrible event, the United States confronts an evolving threat of terrorism and targeted violence. Despite the challenges, the department has made significant progress in its efforts to detect and prevent threats that various groups pose to the country. Besides Homeland Security, Homeland Defense is another department that protects the United States from attacks. According to White & Collins (2005), Homeland Defense is an agency that protects the U.S.’ sovereignty, territory, and critical infrastructure from external threats as directed by the president. Throughout the context of this paper, the tasks, operations, missions, and areas of responsibility of Home Security and Homeland Defense will be discussed. The areas that the two departments share will be established, and a suggestion of a new Counter-Terrorism Strategy will be relayed.

Homeland Security is a multi-functional department that has a range of responsibilities. As per Baggett & Simpkins (2018), its primary responsibility is to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States soil. Under this, the agency works towards reducing the country’s vulnerability for terrorist attacks, minimizing damages, and helping communities recover from successful terrorist plots. Besides preventing terror attacks, other responsibilities of Homeland Security, as brought out by White & Collins (2005), including protecting civil rights and liberties, protecting the country’s crucial infrastructure, disaster assistance, citizenship and immigration services, and emergency response and recovery. The agency has various Departments held liable for each of the responsibilities mentioned above.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has five core missions. The first mission is to prevent the country from terrorism, which is the foundation of the agency. In the contemporary era, terrorism has become one of the top priorities of the DHS due to its potential magnitude to the country’s security and citizen safety. In this regard, this mission encompasses a range of strategies that focus on counter-terrorism, such as protecting key leaders and critical infrastructure, preventing the utilization and acquisition of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, making aviation security strong, and preventing the travel of terrorists into the United States (Reese, 2013). The second mission is securing and managing the United States’ borders. It is in the agency’s best interest that it ensures the integrity and safety of the flow of products and people traveling in and out of the country. The primary goal of this mission is to safeguard the country’s Air, Land, and Sea borders by preventing illegal activities, trade, and travel. This mission also aims at dismantling and disrupting illegal transnational organizations and criminal acts. Developing and administering immigration laws is the third mission. This mission aims to strengthen the immigration system and promote lawful immigration. It also aims to prevent unlawful immigrants from entering the U.S. and deport criminals who pose a threat to the public (Baggett & Simpkins, 2018). The fourth mission is safeguarding and securing cyberspace. The constant advancement in technology and employment of new, improved techniques puts the country’s cyber security at risk more than ever. For this reason, the agency aims at strengthening the security and resilience of the country’s critical infrastructure against cyber threats and intrusions. Finally, there is the mission to strengthen America’s preparedness and resilience. This mission’s focus is to solidify the country’s core capabilities in protecting, responding, and recovering from adverse hazards

From the context above, it can be ascertained that the primary role of Homeland Security is to protect the American homeland. Homeland Security means protecting America’s citizens, crucial infrastructure, and implementing counterterrorist plots to prevent attacks. Although many people often think that terrorists are from particular interest nations, this is not the case. At times terrorists can be homegrown radicals whose desire is to conduct terror agendas on their soil. While Homeland Security focuses on internal issues, Homeland Defenses focuses on adversaries as far from the country’s borders.

As mentioned before, Homeland Defense is an agency that protects America’s sovereignty, local population, and territories overseas from external threats and attacks. Its operations ensure the security and integrity of the country by detecting, deterring, preventing, and defending terror threats against America as far from its borders to reduce the impact on the American society. Homeland Defense’s primary responsibility is formulating the military forces needed to safeguard America’s security and deter war. The primary elements of the forces include the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps and non-combat programs such as the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. As per Newton (2019), other responsibilities of Homeland Defense include securing critical infrastructure, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, and biological, nuclear, and chemical defense. Its missions include defending the United States from external attack, providing defense support to civil authorities, securing the country’s borders, counter-terrorism, and domestic security management.

Upon analyzing the responsibilities of Homeland Security and Homeland Defense, it was established the two departments have a range of shared responsibilities. The most perceived shared responsibility is protecting the country from attacks and threats. It takes a team effort between the two agencies to prevent attacks such as bombings or hi-jacks. Even though Homeland Security tends to focus on internal issues, this department has not been prevented from working collaboratively with Homeland Defense to stop attacks from abroad. Information about an attack on the American soil that Homeland Defense has gathered can be meaningless if it does not involve Homeland Security. The safety of the country falls on every agency involved, not just a single entity, thus it makes it a shared responsibility between the Homeland Security and Homeland Defense departments. Both departments have a common goal of protecting the American people and stopping terror attacks. Thus, working side by side helps them achieve this goal better. Another shared responsibility is the prevention of utilization and acquisition of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. However, Homeland Defense has more knowledge and personnel to deal with this issue. Counternarcotics are another responsibility that both departments share. Homeland Security uses agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency to prevent drug flow from reaching the United States shores. Homeland Defense utilizes the U.S. Navy at sea and in the air to track down drug smugglers attempting to find their way into the United States.

When analyzing various operations and mechanisms of Homeland Security and Homeland Defense, it is essential to examine the strategy behind them. The current National Security Strategy can be defined as a process that aims to develop, apply, and coordinate the instruments of national power (Preston, 2021). The methodology used to fight terrorism is constantly evolving and adapting to the changes in the environment as well as the definitions of this strategy. To fight terrorism effectively, it is necessary to understand the mission areas of the U.S.’ counter-terror operations. The current strategic risk assessment focuses on five key areas: prevention, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation. Therefore the new strategy formulated must incorporate the desired result. Through the concept of the Ends, ways, means Paradigm, an effective and efficient strategy that will safeguard its homeland better can be developed. This strategy is involving the use of various practical and advanced technologies. As technological advancements continue to improve, the threats posed by terrorism and natural disasters have become more sophisticated, and the National Security Strategy will have to address these threats. This means that cyber security is an area that should be included in the new strategy as it should be the main focus of the defense. This new strategy should also consider various possible outcomes of addressing the issue in order to achieve the desired result of countering cyber terrorism in the homeland.

In conclusion, the Department of Homeland Security is the lead agency in the U.S. responsible for protecting the American way of life now and in the future. Following the 9/11 attack, the agency has numerous responsibilities and is expected to respond to any threats that may arise. The Department of Defense, also known as the Department of Homeland Defense, will continue to work with Homeland Security to protect the U.S. from internal, external threats and hazards. The National Security Strategy will constantly evolve based on the latest intelligence data, but its primary objective will always remain the same, to keep the United States safe.


Baggett, R. K., & Simpkins, B. K. (2018). Homeland Security and critical infrastructure protection (2nd ed.). ABC-CLIO.

Newton, M. A. (2019). The United States Department of Defense Law of war manual: Commentary and critique. Cambridge University Press.

Preston, A. (2021). National security as grand strategy. Rethinking American Grand Strategy, 238-253.

Reese, S. (2013). Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and congressional considerations. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress.

White, R., & Collins, K. (2005). The United States Department of Homeland Security: An overview. Pearson Custom Pub.


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