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There is no doubt that the Department of Homeland security plays a major role in protecting America against potential threats. Congress allocates a huge budget for the maintenance of its physical and human resources. The department has a total of 240,000 employees making it the third-largest federal department with an annual budget of USD 50 billion (Napolito, 2012). The department which began its operations in 2003 has focused primarily on controlling terrorism and dealing with other key security issues such as border security, transport security (aviation), cyber security and emergency response. The department has a total of 1000 products that are still growing and that are meant to cater to these issues.
Despite all that DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has achieved, there is more internal restructuring that remains to be done to ensure that existing gaps and weaknesses are eliminated. In this regard, DHS efforts to improve its potential could be greatly hampered by certain individual rights and freedoms that terrorists could take advantage of. It is therefore imperative for the congress and the president to be aware of such an issue and come up with appropriate measures to help DHS in its noble operations.
So far, DHS has accomplished a lot in terms of formulating strategic and operational plans. These include the national response framework that lays down the guidelines for responding to disasters and the homeland security framework. The department has also been instrumental in securing airports by highly trained federal screening workforce across all airports in the country. Moreover, the efficiency of the U.S. Computer emergency Readiness Team has been enhanced through the creation of new programs and expansion of existing offices (Napolito, 2012). Such feats are noteworthy considering that the department has had other missions to attend to. Moreover, it did not take long for the department to transform itself into a fully-fledged department. However, the management challenges of DHS make its evolutionary process a difficult one considering that it has a lot of work that is yet to be done. Hence a balance must be created between the need for a smooth and efficient transformation and the risk of possible erosion of constitutional rights and freedoms of individuals. In all-purpose and intent, constitutional rights and freedoms of an individual should not be allowed to undermine national security.
Care should be taken not to undermine the rule of democracy when considering the extent of privileged access to information that DHS should be granted. This is only one aspect of individual rights and freedoms; the constitutional right to information. It becomes difficult for DHS to transform quickly given the bureaucratic process involved in obtaining a judicial clarification of some of the rights that are entrenched in the constitution. Without compelling justification and sound theoretical reasoning, no basic right can be entrenched in the constitution (Dawn, 2012). The freedom of information is therefore a basic right that can potentially hinder the agency from carrying out its duties effectively. This is because terrorism is taking on different faces every day and disclosure or non-disclosure of some of the information can pose a serious national threat. Hence, the congress and the president should address the issue by clearly defining the boundaries between information that is a risk to national security and that which is not.
Implementation Challenges/ Major Obstacles
A plausible solution can be created to address the conflict that may arise between the functions or operations of DHS and the constitutional rights and freedoms of individuals once the progress made by the agency and work remaining to be done has been clearly understood. DHS has so far reinforced security across the borders by implementing a visitor and immigrant status technology that is capable of obtaining biometric and biographic information (Young, 2010). This kind of information should be handled with due care and should not be released to the public on demand due to security implications. This is because the agency is not at the moment capable of implementing a biometric exit (Dawn, 2012). Hence, it is still impossible to identify some of the visitors that enter the country legally but then overstay their visit. Another drawback is the cancellation of the information technology program that took long to implement along with the entry points of ports.
Another accomplishment has been the implementation of the secure flight screening program. No passenger is allowed to enter a plane without his name being checked against a terrorist watch list records (Napolito, 2012). Air cargo and baggage are also checked. However, DHS has not been able to deploy appropriate technology that can screen cargo loaded on a pallet. DHS has also issued generic guidelines for emergency preparedness and response across all states. The agency is in the process of fully implementing a national disaster recovery framework. States that implement reasonable risk methodology are given favorable preparedness grants. Nonetheless, it lacks a long-term recovery structure that can quickly allow the local and state governments to get involved. Moreover, the grant application process for preparedness programs is at the moment experiencing problems of duplicity and redundancy.
DHS has been successful in deploying technology that has the potential to detect chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats (Young, 2010). However, much work still needs to be done if DHS is to be able to coordinate and implement mechanisms for detection of nuclear threats on an international scale. Nonetheless, DHS has done a great job in providing leadership for all the stakeholders. However, the agency needs to do a lot in creating partnerships to enhance the sharing of information if its operations are to be successful. DHS has been experiencing problems sharing cyber information. This is because the federal government has to scrutinize the information before it is released. This has ended up negatively affecting DHS operations since timely and accurate response becomes hampered.
DHS has so far consolidated a total of 22 agencies into a single department. The department has yet to come up with management strategies that are cost-effective and efficient. Shortage of personnel in the area of acquisition management and lack of an efficient financial management system should be addressed to enhance the collection of information (Dawn, 2012). The operations of DHS should be sustainable given the central role it plays in homeland security. Its programs should be given enough room to transform and mature according to security needs of the country.
The Department of Home Land Security was created a decade ago following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the heart of New York and Washington DC. Its most notable mission has been to prevent any further attacks of such a magnitude. The department is also meant to help the country recover from damages should such an attack occur. The operations carried out by DHS are highly risky given the amount of time and resources needed to make it to be completely effective.
Failure for DHS to deliver can render the country vulnerable to many security threats. Hence, every weakness that is to be found within the entities that formed the department should be identified and weeded out. To show measurable and sustainable progress and development, DHS should ensure that its high-risk strategies are implemented within the shortest time possible (Dawn, 2012). This will enable the department to improve efficiency by integrating and strengthening its management functions.
There are areas where DHS is making more progress than in others. For instance, management functions lag behind mission functions which are implemented quite fast. Moreover, maritime security is performing much better than aviation while transport security and emergency preparedness are not well covered (Charles, et al, 2012). The department should put in place efficient performance measurement efforts. Moreover, it should have in place quantitative goals and measures for assessing the progress that it makes. The department should also implement strategies that are based on outcomes to enhance the measurement of performance.
The government must stand ready to support DHS in its mission to strengthen aviation security. Passengers should bypass a mandatory screening test prior to entering a plane and appropriate checkpoint technology should be used for this purpose. Moreover, the department must ensure that it has a reliable system that can ascertain the validity of data obtained for both outbound and inbound cargo flights. DHS should also partner with organizations such as Department of Health and Organizational services to make the work of assessing, detecting and mitigating CBRN easier (Cook, 2011). This can be by way of developing policies and procedures to guide the assessment work. Means of gathering data must be implemented to help DHS partners such as National Biosurveillance Integration Center carry out its operations. The government should also assist the Biosurveillance with resources to facilitate its activities.
DHS has more work yet to be done in monitoring and detecting nuclear threats across the globe. The missing elements of the monitoring architecture such as program funding among others should be addressed to enhance operations (Cook, 2011). The department must also come up with efficient strategies to enhance the security of highway infrastructure and disaster recovery. Risk assessment for the various modes of transportation should be carried out from time to time so as to identify priority areas in terms of grant allocation. Information concerning highway security should be freely shared and made public. Holding such information in secret is a clear violation of individual constitutional rights and freedoms considering that everyone travels through roads. Such disclosure should be in the best interests of national security.
DHS should ensure that weak areas in the efforts to strengthen border security are identified and addressed. Biometric technology must be put in place to enhance the screening of people entering and leaving the country. The government should assist DHS in solving this problem which has persisted for long. The cancellation of the port security IT system raised questions concerning the effectiveness of some of the programs pursued by DHS (Dawn, 2012). Thus, an independent appraisal committee should be appointed to ensure that wastage of resources is kept at a minimum. However, the independent committee or organ should not be allowed to delay the operations of the DHS in any way. Conversely, the committee can be entrenched into the department and it should vet all major programs before their implementation and offer recommendations.
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In conclusion, DHS should facilitate coordination of efforts between its various agencies to make sure that visa risks are addressed. The department should be compelled and assisted by the government to obtain the necessary technology to enhance the identification of foreign seafarers to strengthen marine security. At the moment, the lack of such technology opens the department to fraud vulnerabilities when it comes to the inspection of documents of cargo vessels. Covert tests easily identified this vulnerability that can be exploited by terrorists when investigators were allowed entry into the port using fake documents. Terrorism is evolving and DHS must evolve together with it and nothing should be left to chance (Cook, 2011). Moreover, genuine entry documents can be obtained through legitimate means by those seeking to harm Americans and DHS should therefore ensure that adequate screening of those seeking entry documents via sea is carried out. DHS should ensure that American cyberspace is safe from terrorist attacks. A system that can issue early actionable warnings should be put in place once anomalies across networks are detected (Charles, et al, 2012). The government should assist DHS in resolving these issues among others by removing any constitutional barrier related to constitutional individual rights and freedoms while ensuring that the rule of democracy remains intact.
Charles, R. S., Territo, L. & Taylor, W. R. (2012). Police Administration: Structures, Processes and Behavior, 8th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Publishing Co. Pearson.
Cook, P. J. (2011). The Terrorist. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Dawn, R. (2012). Progress Made and Work Remaining in Implementing Homeland Security. GAO. Web.
Young, C. (2010). Security Analysis and Department of Homeland Security. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Napolito, J. (2012). Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Report: A strategic Framework for a Secure homeland. Department of Homeland Security, 1458(4), 2-48. Web.