In the United States, a diverse group of agencies and organizations work together to accomplish the homeland security mission. Many of these organizations fall within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Organizations that are not directly a part of DHS act as partners and provide support in various ways. One of the most vital and most capable partners in the homeland security mission is the Department of Defense (DOD). The current organizational makeup of DHS is disorganized and confusing. As is, it prevents efficient support from its partners. The government should create a new, robust homeland security enterprise to solve these issues. By creating an updated homeland security enterprise and leaning on the DOD’s support, the nation will increase its security and protect its citizens.
Within the United States, homeland security is the primary responsibility of DHS. According to the Department of Homeland Security in a 2010 report, “Homeland security describes the intersection of evolving threats and hazards with traditional governmental and civic responsibilities.” In its 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, DHS places its missions into five categories:
- Prevent terrorism and enhance security
- Secure and manage borders
- Enforce and administer immigration laws
- Safeguard and secure cyberspace
- Strengthen national preparedness and resilience
Currently, the organization of DHS and its partners appears haphazard and ill-conceived. The organizational structure is a deterrent to effective operations. DHS’s leadership comprises a slew of deputy secretaries, undersecretaries, directors, administrators, commissioners, and a commandant. These leaders are responsible for their department or agencies’ effective operation and report to the Secretary of Homeland Security. The DHS organizational chart shows 23 agencies and departments directly reporting to the deputy secretary’s office. DHS’s organizational structure is beyond the recommended span of control of 3-6 subordinates, which has been utilized for years within many government and military organizations. Agencies within DHS should be grouped according to their functions, allowing them to be managed more effectively. These functions are: (a) intelligence, planning, and coordination; (b) border security; (c) immigration; (d) response and prevention; and (e) international affairs. Ideally, a “chief” would lead each division. The chief could operate in a role similar to that of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. By working together, the divisions will accomplish the five DHS missions mentioned above.
The department relies on a broad network of support organizations and partners to accomplish its mission. Beyond the agencies and departments that fall within DHS’s organizational structure, numerous others work to ensure the United States is secure. If properly grouped and structured, these organizations, agencies, and partners could form a holistic homeland security enterprise. In the Joint Publication 3-27 Homeland Defense, the office of The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff describes this type of configuration as an “active, layered defense – a global defense that aims to deter and defeat aggression abroad.” They go on to describe the relationship as “a defense-in-depth that relies on collection, analysis, and sharing of information and intelligence.”
Partner agencies will work with the office, whose area align with their specialties. These partners should have liaisons who work as permanent members of the chief’s staff. Partners may assign multiple liaisons to multiple offices if their area of expertise falls within the scope of more than one office. To improve communication and information sharing nationally, each state emergency operations center should include a federal DHS liaison. This liaison can communicate requests to the DHS headquarters in Washington, D.C., and facilitate coordination among the department. This structure would increase the effectiveness and cohesiveness of the disparate parts of the current homeland security configuration.
Example of a Holistic Homeland Security Enterprise
DHS Chief of Intelligence, Planning, and Coordination
Partner agencies associated with Intelligence, Planning, and Coordination
DHS Chief of Border Security
DHS Chief of Response & Prevention
Partner agencies associated with Response & Prevention
DHS Chief of Immigration
DHS Chief of International Affairs
Partner agencies associated with International Affairs
Additional Partner Agencies
Department of Defense
Within the homeland security enterprise, the Department of Defense is a unique partner. The organization has an enormous amount of personnel and equipment it can use to support homeland security functions. However, DOD’s ability to operate within the United States borders is limited slightly by the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA). The PCA prevents the military from being used by law enforcement agencies to conduct certain law enforcement activities. The PCA states, “Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.” Posse comitatus is a group of non-law enforcement personnel, formed under the authority of a law enforcement official, typically a sheriff or U.S. Marshal, to defend the laws and restore order. While the PCA prohibits the department of defense from being used in this capacity, it has other robust abilities to assist with homeland security.
DOD can assist with homeland security through defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) operations. DSCA operations allow DOD to support local authorities in responding to domestic emergencies, cyber incidents, and law enforcement support. DSCA includes all activities involved in preparing, preventing, protecting, responding, and recovering from these events.
DOD can provide homeland security support and assistance in several ways:
- Cyber assistance is provided through the U.S. Cyber Command and its partnership with other DHS and government agencies.
- The Special Operations Command provides support for domestic counterterrorism activities.
- The Transportation Command can advise on mobility needs for both goods and personnel.
- DOD assets can be utilized for imagery, to include reconnaissance of incident sites, to provide assessment and situational awareness.
- DOD can also support critical infrastructure protection. Critical infrastructure consists of the power grid, water supply, and cyber networks.
- DOD provides robust support to counter weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE), threats through its extensive CBRNE enterprise. The CBRNE enterprise includes National Guard Civil Support Teams, Homeland Response Forces, and CBRN Enhanced Response Force Packages.
DOD can share intelligence with DHS as long as there is no collection of information on U.S. persons. Also, the subject of intelligence must be linked to defense or counter-insurgency activities. All these capabilities make the DOD a valuable partner to DHS in the homeland security mission.
Homeland Defense vs. Homeland Security
According to the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2018, homeland defense is the “protection of US sovereignty, territory, domestic population, and critical infrastructure against external threats.” It is accomplished by “detecting, deterring, preventing, and defeating threats from actors of concern as far forward from the homeland as possible.” In the same Joint Publication 3-27, Homeland Defense, the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff goes on to list the objectives of homeland defense as:
(1) Dissuade threats from undertaking programs or conducting actions that could pose a threat to the US homeland. (2) Ensure defense of the homeland and deny a threat’s access to the nation’s sovereign airspace, territory, and territorial seas. (3) Ensure access to cyberspace and information (including information systems and security). (4) Protect the domestic population and critical infrastructure. (5) Deter aggression and coercion by conducting global operations. (6) Decisively defeat any attack if deterrence fails. (7) Recover the military force to restore readiness and capabilities after any attack or incident.
Joint Publication 3-27 describes homeland defense and defense support of civil authorities as additional blocks on top of the foundation built by homeland security. Suppose a threat or incident evolves beyond the scope of homeland security into homeland defense missions.
The relationship between DOD and DHS occurs in both land and maritime operations. While the Coast Guard is the lead federal agency for maritime homeland security, DOD is the lead agency for maritime homeland defense. DOD supports USCG operations in homeland security and defeats threats beyond the Coast Guard’s capabilities in homeland defense missions. In that case, DOD can take over the leadership role as it is the lead federal agency for homeland defense operations. This contrasts with homeland security missions, where the DHS is the lead federal agency, and DOD is a supporting partner. DOD operates in these two areas to counter threats beyond the capabilities of the homeland security enterprise or threats from other nations. It is important to note that homeland defense activities do not fall under the PCA constraints.
Partnerships & Capabilities
The U.S. government and its many support agencies offer diverse and robust capabilities to defend its homeland. Many of these are federal government organizations, but many of them operate outside the federal government’s constraints. Within the country’s borders, the Department of Homeland Security works daily to protect citizens from actors who desire to cause them harm. Currently, the organization of the Department of Homeland Security is not ideal. It is a mismatch of agencies, offices, and departments. Ideally, the government would merge these into a more streamlined homeland security enterprise.
Beyond DHS, several partners work to support the homeland security mission. The Department of Defense is one of these partners and is a crucial organization in the homeland security process. It works as a supporting partner of the DHS in many functions. However, when a threat extends beyond the scope of DHS, DOD is prepared to move from its support role in homeland security to a leadership position in homeland defense. Without the DOD, homeland security would not function as it does within the United States, the borders would be less secure, and the threat of terrorism would be increased.
Daniel Rector is an emergency management professional with over 15 years of experience in homeland security and emergency management operations. He is a military veteran with 12 years of active-duty experience. He served as a damage control petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and survey team chief on a National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team. He served as a contractor for military and private sector clients designing exercises and conducting training. He has extensive experience conducting threat identification, hazard analysis, training program development, and exercise design/evaluation. He is a graduate of training programs from the Defense Nuclear Weapons School, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the U.S. Army’s Chemical/Biological Weapons Center, and the Idaho National Laboratory. He completed the FEMA Homeland Security Exercise & Evaluation Program course and the Continuity of Operations Planning course and is enrolled in the FEMA Master Exercise Practitioner Program. He is a Certified Emergency Manager, licensed hazardous materials technician, confined space rescue technician I/II, and emergency medical technician. His awards for excellence include being the only National Guard soldier ever named the Distinguished Honor Graduate while simultaneously being nominated by his peers for the Leadership Award at the CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) Advanced Leaders Course.