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The United States of America always boasted in its technical security and well advanced intelligence detectives and operations against any foreign or terrorist attack. However, this perception has since been altered, following the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. This attack broke into the perceived tough security and technical intelligence of the United States, exposing its weaknesses and vulnerability to the external attacks. The events of 9/11 have had significant impact on homeland security. This paper, thus, focuses on the impacts of the events of 9/11 on homeland security and the consequent improvements that have been made to strengthen security after this costly attack. The paper will also consider the potential improvements in terms of policies and practices that may be necessary to improve U.S. security.
Impact of 9/11 on Homeland Security
The 9/11 events led to devastating losses in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. The economic, technological, physical, and socio-emotional losses were very huge. The attacks led to a myriad of changes in the U.S. security operations. One of the significant implications of the attack that remains conspicuous to date was the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security. President Bush yielded to the pressure from the Congress to establish the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This initiative led to the amalgamation of more than twenty agencies and over 180,000 employees from various corners of the government under one umbrella security department.
The establishment of the Department of Homeland Security led to a great re-structuring and re-organization of Homeland Security. It brought together the Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration and the Border Patrol. The establishment of the Department of Homeland Security had far-reaching effects on the structures and operations of the U.S. security details. The department was given the mandate to coordinate the U.S. security efforts. This role was not limited to the federal government, it was the body mandated to coordinate the security details at the state, local and federal levels of governance (Coleman, 2009).
The mandate of the Department of Homeland Security was to enhance increased preparedness of homeland security, especially in relation to catastrophic events. The department was also given the mandate to create better security systems in the transport system. This was basically to ensure people and cargo could move safely and efficiently with minimal risks of attack. Waxman (2009, p. 385-386) notes that before the creation of the Department of the Homeland Security, the synthesis and analysis of intelligence was done by various agencies and was generally uncoordinated. The 9/11 attacks, however, led to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, which was mandated to be the central point of synthesis and the analysis of all the intelligence details that are collected from various sources.
The creation of the Department of Homeland Security improved homeland security by enhancing coordination of communications with the state, governments, and the private security industry. The devolved security management system was challenging to coordinate (Waxman 2009, p. 380). Besides, the economic implications of this devolved system were unbearable to the American tax-payer. Role confusion and overlap was also common with this approach, especially with no clear division and specialization in security tasks, based on competence. The absence of ideal bureaucracy rendered the system ineffective, making U.S. very vulnerable to attack.
The amalgamation of all the security agencies under the Department of Homeland Security reduced the economic costs of coordination, while also making it possible to hold the security personnel accountable, especially where there is excessive use of power and abuse of fundamental human rights and freedoms. This would significantly harmonize the operations of security structures of the United States and increase the homeland security’s preparedness in terms of combating threats. Before the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security by President Bush, there was poor communication between the many security agencies in the private and public sectors, including sharing of intelligence details (Marion & Cronin 2009, p. 8).
Improvements to Strengthen Security in the Aftermath of 9/11
The establishment of the U.S. State Department of Homeland Security was the greatest move that the U.S. government, under President George Bush, made towards strengthening security in the powerful nation. The department introduced significant security measures, targeting protection of the American people against terrorism and other potential security risks (Leiter, Carlin, Fong, Marcus & Vladeck 2011, p. 130-131). Among the improvements that the Department of Homeland Security initiated to improve security in the United States is the fusion and analysis of top intelligence, protection of America’s critical infrastructure, coordinated security structures at the state, local and private sectors throughout the United States and the cyber infrastructure (Leiter et al. 2011, p. 131).
The aftermath of 9/11 events has seen the U.S. draw quite significantly on its science and technology base to improve its security against attacks. The Department of Homeland Security has particularly invested significantly on research on how technology can be applied to boost the security of the American people. This has been applied in the cyber security infrastructures, the space technology and security and the technological surveillance at the borders. The U.S. government also centralized its top intelligence organs. This has been achieved through organizations and institutions such as the CIA, NSA, FBI, INS, DEA, DOE, Customs and DOT. The U.S. has, therefore, centralized its security structures, aimed at identifying and assessing the present and the future security threats that the country is facing. This has help also to address the security issues at the U.S-Mexican border (Hussain, Pattnayak & Hira 2008, p. 247). The relations between the two countries are only what needs to be addressed. This has enhanced informed and timely mapping of security threats, issuing of timely warnings and development of effective preventive and protective interventions.
The United States has put in place mechanisms for protection of its critical infrastructure. The infrastructural security focus also includes agriculture, health systems and the emergency services, information and telecommunications, banking and finance, energy, transport, the chemical and the defense industries, postal and shipping bodies and the national monuments. This renewed effort aims at creating a network of collaboration between security structures and the government and private sector agencies to protect the U.S. against attack, especially in the high risk areas (United States Government Accountability Office 2011, p. 40). This collaborative network against security threats were non-existent before the 9/11 attacks. As a matter of fact, the improvements were all developed in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that exposed the weak security lapses in the U.S.
The United States has strengthened its intelligence functions and information sharing structures. This has greatly improved the security of the country, as there is free flow of security information from the intelligence agencies to the security enforcement agencies in both the private and the public sector. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security has also enhanced the coordination and the deployment of preparedness assets. This would also harmonize the functions of the top National Security and Defense (Bolton 2008, p. 117-118). This has been achieved through first responder trainings, improved citizen awareness and sensitivity trainings, enhancement of cyber security and other telecommunications and above security of the U.S.-Mexican border (Hussain et al. 2008, p. 247-248).
The United States Homeland Security has been empowered to improve anti-terrorism intelligence. This was based on the understanding that prevention of terrorist attack depends wholly on intelligence details of a state. Waxman (2009, p. 387) cited that this role has been centralized under the Department of Homeland Security with the strategic aim of ensuring that all raw data, collected and released to the Department of Homeland Security, are processed in good time and the security threats detected to the relevant points and authorities to avert any vulnerability to terrorist attacks. The investment efforts of the United States government on security intelligence have enhanced improvement of security, especially in terms of preparedness and emergency response initiatives to potential plans of attack.
Further Policies and Practices needed to improve the U.S. Security
In order to further improve the U.S. security, there is a need to put emphasis on more extensive security surveillance, especially against suspicious individuals and groups in the U.S. It is interesting that security details later discovered that the people who executed the 9/11 attack had lived, freely travelled and even trained in the United States. The department of immigration should, thus, keep close watch and interrogation of all visitors that cross the U.S. borders into the country (Warner 2010, p. 30). This can be achieved through the use of modern information technology for detection, collection and assessment of all information, relating to people considered suspicious. Warner (2010, p. 7) cited that although it may be perceived as a move that will sour U.S. foreign relations, the foreign policy should be reviewed to harmonize it with the immigration laws. Border technology can be helpful, especially in screening of visitors’ identification.
The points of entry, especially the borders of the U.S., need more security monitoring. There is, thus, a need to review the policies, relating to obtaining U.S. visas, through thorough scrutiny of visitors’ passports. The immigration policies should also target averting the porosity of the U.S. borders. As a top security intervention initiative, the Department of Homeland Security should, thus, consider deployment of security and intelligence detectives in the porous U.S. borders. This should be coordinated by the office of the General Security (Bolton 2008, p. 117; Marion & Cronin 2009, p. 8-9). Although good progress has been made in securing the U.S.-Mexico border, much more is needed to avert security threats in other boarders (Coleman, 2009).
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security needs to invest more in studies on the vulnerability of the U.S. to chemical and biological attack. Terrorist attacks, involving use of biological and chemical weapons, still remain a great threat to the U.S. security. This is because the biological and chemical weapons are more accessible, cheaper and remain a challenge for the security intelligence to detect. In order to deal with this threat, the U.S. government, through the Department of Homeland Security, should review its public health system policies to factor in mechanisms of thwarting this potentially tricky security threat (United States Government Accountability Office 2011, p. 28). There is, thus, a need to develop programs that would inoculate key public health and decision-making personnel, stockpiling of vaccines, and improving the awareness and capacity of the American population to potential threats of biological and chemical attacks.
The U.S. Homeland Security has significantly changed after the events of 9/11. Its structure and operations have been altered to seal the loopholes that terrorists and other security threats could exploit to attack the U.S. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate and centralize all the U.S. security structures is one of the impacts that the attacks of 9/11 have yielded. Although much has been done since the creation of this important department, much more is needed in terms of policies and practices to enhance homeland security. The greatest challenge, however, remains the cost implications of the security adjustments.