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Homeland Security & Defense and Critical Infrastructure Essay

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Updated: Jul 1st, 2021

Introduction

Every country has specific institutions and agencies as well as policies and strategic plans that enable them to ensure the safety of their population. The United States has tools of its own to address the challenges of the modern world. One of the primary concerns of the American government is terrorism as this phenomenon has been associated with considerable civilian casualties and massive destruction (Nemeth, 2016). The tragic consequences of the 9/11 attack led to a substantial reorganization of agencies aimed at ensuring people’s safety. This paper includes a brief analysis of the concepts of homeland security and homeland defense as well as the critical infrastructure within the domain of homeland security.

Homeland Security and Homeland Defense Concepts

Missions, Responsibilities, and Resources

The United States, like every other country, has had to address numerous issues throughout its history. National security and the protection from foreign forces have become a central concern of the US government in the 20th century (Nemeth, 2016). The concept of homeland defense is closely linked to the country’s efforts to address such challenges. The Department of Defense (DOD) is responsible for developing and implementing strategies to predict, prevent, and mitigate the adverse outcomes of diverse events (Department of Homeland Security [DHS], 2006). Apart from addressing military issues, the DOD responds to such threats (and their aftermaths) as natural and manmade disasters, including but not limited to biological and chemical catastrophes, terrorist attacks, and floods, as well as fighting forest fires (Nemeth, 2016). Included in the Department of Defense are the US Navy, Air Force, and Army. This department of the US government is also related to agencies such as the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. However, the DOD has been found lacking in the efforts to preserve national security. For example, Roberts (2014) notes that it often fails to achieve its primary goals or responds to hazards ineffectively due to a lack of coordination between the agencies in different states.

The concept of homeland security is mainly associated with terrorism and authorities’ efforts to address this issue. Homeland security can be defined as any governmental agency’s effort to predict, prevent, and respond to such hazards of modern society as terrorist attacks and natural and manmade catastrophes. This notion was established after the 9/11 attacks as a result of Americans’ sudden realization that they were vulnerable (DHS, 2010). Thus, an agency was created in October 2001 to concentrate on the prevention, detection, and mitigation of the outcomes of terrorist attacks. Furthermore, the war on terrorism is connected to the war on drugs (Nemeth, 2016). The resources needed for responding to hazards are also available through such agencies as the US National Guard, the United States Secret Service, and the Transportation Security Administration, among others. However, in this area, as well, a lack of coordination is seen as a major limitation to homeland security efforts.

Overlapping Responsibilities and Homeland Security Definition

In dealing with terrorism, the responsibilities and activities of the agencies related to homeland security and homeland defense overlap. The institutions related to homeland security and defense are tasked to try to prevent and respond to any type of terrorist attack, which can take many forms, including explosions, shootings, or assassinations (Nemeth, 2016). On the one hand, sharing responsibilities enhances the country’s ability to keep its citizens safe. On the other hand, the fact that numerous agencies may be involved brings more issues than solutions due to a lack of coordination and even conflicting interests.

American Critical Infrastructure

Critical Infrastructure, Homeland Security, and Homeland Defense

Critical infrastructure can be defined as “[s]ystems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction… would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety” (Simpkins, 2018, p. 4). Some examples of such assets and systems are nuclear power plants, airports, railroads, educational and government facilities, and airplanes. As the definition implies, critical infrastructure relates directly to homeland security and homeland defense. While damage to or destruction of the systems mentioned above may disrupt the daily activities of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people and cause social unrest, serious hazards to the public health, and other negative outcomes, the crippling or loss of such assets and systems could have the auxiliary impact of preventing the corresponding agencies and forces from reaching the affected region and responding to the emerging threats.

Resources Necessary to Protect Critical Infrastructure

Depending on the type of critical infrastructure involved, it is important to employ certain resources to protect from harm. In the case of hard targets (nuclear power plants, governmental facilities, airports, and other sites), the DOD and its corresponding departments and agencies are involved (Simpkins, 2018). The army in addition to such bodies as the US National Guard and the federal Transportation Security Administration can ensure the safety of these facilities. The major effort in this endeavor is aimed at preventing and protecting the systems and assets. The agencies mentioned above are not usually engaged in protecting soft targets such as restaurants or hotels. Nevertheless, when responding to various hazards, the bodies mentioned above come into play.

Personal Assessment of US Current Infrastructure Protection Efforts and Ways to Address Them

As no mass destruction has occurred since the events of 9/11, it can be argued that homeland security efforts conducted by the American government have been largely successful, but these protective agencies have failed to help many people. One of the most vulnerable areas today is cybersecurity, encompassing assets that can be destroyed by a terrorist group or skilled individual. Recent issues involving Russian cyberattacks indicate that gaps exist and should be addressed. To ensure security in this field, it is important to provide additional funding to the corresponding agencies. For example, it is critical to invest in research aimed at developing effective strategies, tools, and technologies that can be used to ensure the country’s cybersecurity. Improving recruitment policies can help the government attract talent and prevent skilled people from being engaged in unlawful activities. Finally, additional training related to cybersecurity should be provided to individuals associated with critical infrastructure.

Conclusion

In summary, the concepts of homeland security and homeland defense are similar but are characterized by different focuses. The former is concerned with the war on terrorism, while the latter effort is associated with responses to a wide range of challenges. It is important to note that a central problem related to homeland security and defense is a lack of coordination among the numerous agencies and facilities, which can lead to a variety of adverse outcomes. Protecting critical infrastructure can be seen as one of the priorities of homeland security and defense efforts. Finally, to ensure the safety of critical infrastructure as well as overall national security, it is pivotal to address cybersecurity issues.

References

Department of Homeland Security. (2006). Web.

Department of Homeland Security. (2010). Web.

Nemeth, C. P. (2016). Homeland security: An introduction to principles and practice (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Roberts, P. (2014). The lessons of civil defense federalism for the homeland security era. Journal of Policy History, 26(03), 354-383. Web.

Simpkins, B. K. (2018). Introduction to critical infrastructure security and resilience. In R. K. Baggett & B. K. Simpkins (Eds.), Homeland security and critical infrastructure protection (2nd ed.) (pp. 1-32). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

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