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The Future of Homeland Security Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 12th, 2019

Introduction

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is tasked with keeping the United States safe from domestic and international security threats. It accomplishes this mission by “coordinating across 22 preexisting agencies, reporting to a multitude of congressional committees, and interacting with the U.S. public in a manner that constantly tests the balance between security and privacy” (Nelson & Wise, 2013, par. 1).

For the last one decade since its creation in 2002, DHS has mainly dwelled in ways of dealing with Al-Qaeda and the possibility of terrorist attacks. However, security threats keep on evolving and as the department enters its second decade of operation, it will face emerging challenges.

This paper explores the future challenges in homeland security and defense coupled with highlighting the changes that DHS will make in the near future to improve its performance. Ultimately, the paper will underline the future global issues that will influence the formulation of DHS strategies and policies.

Future challenges in homeland security and defense

The threat of security is an ever-evolving phenomenon, and thus the future challenges in DHS will be different from the conventional ones. Nelson and Wise (2013) warn that the future security threats “are complex and multidimensional problems against which no degree of U.S. technical superiority in stealth, fifth-generation air warfare, or night-vision is likely to suffice” (par. 5).

The major future challenges facing DHS entail how to deal with emergent threats like biological weapons, nukes, cyber-attacks, climate change, and geopolitical risks. The other challenge is budgetary risks.

Biological weapons may seem like a far-fetched idea, but it is a major future threat and a challenge to the DHS. For instance, the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa in the recent months highlights the seriousness that a bio-weapon can pose to the American society and the world at large. Currently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not have a vaccine for the Ebola virus.

The National Biosurveillance Integration Center director, Steve Bennet, cautions that prediction of the spread of deadly viruses or bioweapons is unsurmountable currently (Nelson & Wise, 2013). Therefore, the greatest challenge in dealing with bioweapons is gathering timely and precise information on potential attacks.

Even though the Defense Threat Reduction Agency has initiated research programs to improve data gathering, the research is taking unnecessarily long time to come up with tangible results. Therefore, as the DHS grows and restructures to accommodate emerging threats, it needs to invest in research to counter the threat of bio-weapons.

The threat of nuclear weapons has been a challenge for the DHS since its inception in 2002. The stockpiling of nuclear weapons in Middle East is a worrying trend to the security of Americans. Iran has been on the forefront in the quest to enrich its Uranium deposits and with the proliferation of Al-Qaeda operations in the country, the threat of nuclear attacks is real.

Al-Qaeda is a sworn enemy of the United States and given that the Iranian authorities are tolerant of the group’s operations, these terrorists can use that opportunity to attack the US.

In addition, the possibility of terrorists using black market to smuggle nukes into the United States is real due to lack of real time monitoring of transportation of such materials. The DHS has endeavored to screen materials at the American ports for radioactive substances (West, 2012), but the program faces technical and financial hiccups.

Cyber-attacks have emerged in the recent past as potential security threats. Cyber criminals may hack crucial information concerning the United States’ security strategies, which compromises the capability of the DHS to monitor and counter attacks (Nelson & Wise, 2013).

In addition, cyber-criminals can use technology to infiltrate and disrupt crucial computer-based infrastructures like transportation systems and power grinds among others. The DHS’s challenge lies in how to counter these attacks.

Unfortunately, the majority of the Internet’s infrastructures, which are vulnerable to attacks, belong to the private sector and this aspect impedes the capability of the DHS to address the issue conclusively (Busch & Givens, 2012).

Undeniably, cyber attackers will evolve with time and embrace sophisticated ways of attacks. This fact implies that the DHS will need extra experienced network security experts, which are in acute shortage currently.

Conventionally, climate change and security would be two unrelated different aspects. However, such thinking is faulty and the Stimson Center’s environmental director, David Michel, warns, “The water-food-energy nexus of issues caused by climate change is going to be a rising challenge for the military and the national security strategy” (Nelson & Wise, 2013, par. 9).

Climate change will ultimately affect the availability of energy resources in the United States. Lack of sufficient energy resources in the US exposes the nation to security threats as energy plays a key role in addressing security matters.

In addition, climate change will lead to escalated natural disasters like typhoons, tsunamis, and earthquakes among other natural calamities. Large-scale natural disasters can destabilize the United States, hence giving its enemies an opportunity to strike, and thus DHS faces the challenge of how to handle climate change.

Geopolitical risks continue to plunge the security wellbeing of the United States (McElreath et al., 2013). Political instabilities caused by the Arab Spring and other political misgivings in Arab countries have given way to the formation and consolidation of insurgent groups across the world. For instance, the Islamic State has strengthened its presence in Syria following the current crisis in the country.

The group holds the same ideologies as Al-Qaeda, which means that the insurgents are a threat to the United States. In the coming days, other insurgent groups are likely to emerge, thus posing a challenge for the DHS. Moving forward, the DHS will have to contend with evolving geopolitical risks and the emergence of insurgents, whose main agenda is to kill westernization and the promoters of the same including the United States.

The last challenge that DHS is likely to face in the future is budgetary risks. As aforementioned, security threats across the United States are evolving with time, which means that the DHS needs extra resources and budgetary allocations to counter these threats.

In addition, the DHS works in collaboration with over 22 bodies in a bid to ensure the security of the Americans, and this aspect means that all these other organizations need sufficient funding to operate effectively.

Unfortunately, the United States has to work on austere budgets due to shortages in resources and finances, which implies that the DHS and other organizations might be forced to operate on lean budgets.

For instance, from 2007 to date, over 50,000 health workers across the United States have lost jobs due to budget cuts. This aspect implies that the capacity of the DHS to deal with a biological threat is limited due to insufficient workforce in the health sector.

Potential changes DHS will make in the near future to improve performance

The aforementioned future DHS challenges underline the need to make changes in the near future in a bid to improve performance. The DHS will be forced to take a holistic approach towards dealing with the current and emerging challenges (Cox & Mosser, 2013). This assertion means that DHS needs to adopt a systems approach in its operations whereby every stakeholder becomes a key player in the implementation of its policies.

In addition, the DHS needs to adopt both small and large-scale models in its functioning. Therefore, all state organs, the public, and private sector players need to work hand-in-hand as opposed to the current model where DHS works as an autonomous body capable of sustaining itself. In addition, the DHS will be required to come up with real-time data analysis tools in a bid to foil attacks before they occur where possible.

Moreover, real-time decision-making tools are a necessity in a bid to improve preparedness and foster proactivity within the DHS.

Lastly, the need for institutionalizing future-oriented thinking is overarching as currently the DHS is busy with responding to threats instead of coming up with futuristic strategies on how to counter potential threats. Strategic thinking and capacity building will play key role in a bid to surmount the challenges facing the DHS.

Future global issues that will influence the formulation of DHS strategy and policy

The world has become one extensive global village, and thus global events will play a central role in the DHS’s strategy and policy formulation. Political instabilities and insurgences across the world will determine how the DHS strategizes.

For instance, the Arab Spring in Syria has led to the consolidation of the Islamic State, which is a threat to the United States and countries across the world. In Iraq, insurgents are taking over several regions across the country, thus destabilizing the government.

In Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea among other nations, political instabilities have become a commonplace, which gives insurgents an opportunity to plan and execute attacks without proper surveillance. In addition, healthy matters across the world will influence the DHS’s policymaking procedures.

The outbreak of a deadly virus in China can spread to the United States within hours and thus the DHS will have to consider such scenarios in its policies. The issue of climate change occurs across the world and since it poses a threat to Americans, the DHS will have to implement policies to address the issue from a worldwide perspective.

Conclusion

Since its inception in 2002 following the tragic 9/11 attacks, the DHS has been at the center of coordinating different bodies in the quest to ensure a secure United States. However, the future poses challenges to the DHS as security threats keep on evolving with time. The key future challenges facing DHS include biological weapons, cyber-attacks, geopolitical risks, austere budgetary allocations, and climate change.

Criminals and terrorists across the world can take advantage of each of the challenge facing the DHS to advance their agenda. Therefore, going forward, the department will be forced to make changes in a bid to incorporate all stakeholders coupled with the adoption of different strategies as explored in this paper. In addition, global trends are likely to influence decision-making coupled with strategy and policy formulation in within the DHS.

References

Busch, N., & Givens, A. (2012). Public-Private Partnerships in Homeland Security: Opportunities and Challenges. Homeland Security Affairs, 8(18), 1-24.

Cox, D., & Mosser, M. (2013). Defense forecasting in theory and practice: conceptualizing and teaching the future operating environment. Small Wars Journal, 1(1), 1-19.

McElreath, D., Jensen, C., Winnington, M., Doss, D., Nations, R., & Slyke, J. (2013). Introduction to Homeland Security (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis.

Nelson, R., & Wise, R. (2013). Meet the Next Generation of Threats. Web.

West, D. (2012). . Web.

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