Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Changing Homeland Security: What Is Homeland Security?

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Changing Homeland Security: What Is Homeland Security?

Article excerpt

The United States, through a concerted national effort that galvanizes the strengths and capabilities of Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments; the private and non-profit sectors; and regions, communities, and individual citizens ? along with our partners in the international community ? will work to achieve a secure Homeland that sustains our way of life as a free, prosperous, and welcoming America.

? Homeland Security Vision, 2007 National Strategy 1

The vision announced six years after the September 11, 2001 attacks is another effort to clarify why the nation engages in the activity called homeland security. It draws a picture of everyone working together to ensure the United States remains a free, wealthy, and friendly nation. The vision suggests both the nobility of our hopes and the innocence of an America untainted by globalism's realpolitik.

One still hears the question asked, "What is homeland security?" Is it a program, an objective, a discipline, an agency, an administrative activity, another word for emergency management? Is it about terrorism? All hazards? Something completely different? 2

Even though there is no explicit agreement about the definition, this does not prevent people from having long and occasionally contentious conversations about the details of homeland security. It is as if we (the people who care about homeland security) carry around a preferred definition in whatever part of the brain holds definitions. We talk about homeland security and only rarely mention what that word means. If words do matter, if we are ever to reach the state envisioned in the Strategy, do we need to know what homeland security is?

There are at least seven defensible definitions of homeland security. 3 These definitions ? and there may be more than seven ? are "ideal types" (as that phrase was used by Max Weber) 4 and are based on assertions about what homeland security emphasizes or ought to emphasize. In a metaphorical sense, each definition represents a set of interests that claims a niche in the homeland security ecosystem. As in a biological system, these semantic entities struggle for resources to sustain themselves, to grow, and to reproduce their point of view within the rest of the ecosystem. As the homeland security ecosystem continues to evolve and interact with its environment, one can expect variation on particular aspects of the definitions, selection by others of the pieces of the definition that confer the most survival value, and reproduction elsewhere in the ecosystem of particular homeland security definitions. 5

The definitions discussed in this paper draw attention to:

1. Terrorism. Homeland security is a concerted national effort by federal, state and local governments, by the private sector, and by individuals to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur.

2. All Hazards. Homeland security is a concerted national effort to prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks, protect against man-made and natural hazards, and respond to and recover from incidents that do occur.

3. Terrorism and Catastrophes. Homeland security is what the Department of Homeland Security ? supported by other federal agencies ? does to prevent, respond to, and recover from terrorist and catastrophic events that affect the security of the United States.

4. Jurisdictional Hazards. Homeland security means something different in each jurisdiction. It is a locally-directed effort to prevent and prepare for incidents most likely to threaten the safety and security of its citizens.

5. Meta Hazards. Homeland security is a national effort to prevent or mitigate any social trend or threat that can disrupt the long-term stability of the American way of life.

6. National Security. Homeland security is an element of national security that works with the other instruments of national power to protect the sovereignty, territory, domestic population, and critical infrastructure of the United States against threats and aggression. …

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