Just as our parents and grandparents remember where they were and what they were doing when President John F. Kennedy was shot, so will it be with this generation when asked the same questions pertaining to September 11, 2001. This horrific event will be a scar on the body of our wonderful nation until the end of time. Parents lost children, children lost parents, spouses lost their heartmates – so much anguish and emotional devastation demands that something be done to prevent tragedy like this from occurring in the future. This is why President George W. Bush created the Office of Homeland Security.
This cabinet-level position was created in lieu of the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and will report directly to the President himself. In an executive order given on October 8, 2001, President Bush stated as follows:
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Establishment. I hereby establish within the Executive Office of the President an Office of Homeland Security (the ”Office”) to be headed by the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security. (Boston, sec. 1).
The first director of the Office of Homeland Security is a Pennsylvanian Republican, Governor Tom Ridge. “The post will be comparable to a domestic variation of the National Security Advisor, said a senior administration official” (Stenger, 2001: screen). Governor Ridge is more than qualified for this illustrious, though sadly needed, position. In the Presidents address to a joint session of Congress and the American people he states that Governor Ridge is “a military veteran, an effective governor, a true patriot and a trusted friend” (Address, 2001: screen). His military experience includes serving as infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam where he earned the Bronze Star for valor. As the first enlisted Vietnam combat veteran elected to the U.S. House he was re-elected six times (Biography, 2001: screen). As Governor of Pennsylvania he began his term in 1995. Since then he has cut taxes every year in office. His Education Empowerment Act helped more than 250,000 children in the states lowest-performing schools.
The Office of Homeland Security has many functions that it will perform to ensure the safety of the nation and its people. Among these functions are national strategy, detection, prevention, protection, response and recovery, and preparedness.
In the area of national strategy, the Office will work with executive departments and agencies and state and local governments to make certain the adequacy of the national strategy for detecting, preparing for, preventing, protecting against, responding to, and recovering from terrorist threats or attacks in the U.S. and will revise that strategy as necessary.
In the detection department, the Office will identify priorities and coordinate efforts for collection and analysis of information within the United States regarding threats of terrorism, and activities of terrorists within the country. It will also identify priorities for the gathering of intelligence outside the U.S. in regards to threats of terrorism within the nation. The Office will work with federal, state, and local agencies to make possible collection from state and local governments and private bodies of information related to terrorist threats or activities in the U.S. It will coordinate efforts to ensure that all executive departments and agencies that have intelligence collection responsibilities have enough technological capabilities and resources to continue to collect intelligence and data relating to terrorist activities or possible terrorist acts in the States. Also, it will manage development of monitoring protocols and equipment for detecting the release of biological, chemical, and radiological hazards. Not only that, the office will ensure that all necessary intelligence and law enforcement information relating to homeland security is distributed to the appropriate executive departments and agencies responsible for homeland security. Where appropriate for reasons of homeland security it will promote exchange of such information among state and local governments and private entities.
In the prevention area the Office of Homeland Security will aid the exchange of information among such agencies relating to immigration and shipments of cargo. Working with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs it will ensure coordination among such agencies to prevent the entry of terrorists and terrorist materials into the United States (Office, 2001: screen). Not to mention the fact that it will coordinate efforts to investigate terrorist threats and attacks within the United States and coordinate efforts to improve the security of United States borders, territorial waters, and airspace in order to prevent any further acts of terrorism.
On the protection front, Governor Ridge will make sure that the Office of Homeland Security strengthens measures for protecting energy production, transmission, and distribution services and critical facilities. The Office will coordinate efforts to protect critical public and privately owned information systems in the U.S. from terrorist attacks, along with developing criteria for reviewing whether appropriate security measures are in place at major public and privately owned facilities. It will direct efforts to protect transportation systems, including railways, highways, shipping, ports and waterways, and airports and civilian aircraft, from terrorist attack, as well as protect the nations livestock and agriculture for the provision of water and food for human use and consumption from terrorist attack. Finally, it will attempt to prevent unauthorized access to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive, or other related materials that have the potential to be used in terrorist attacks.
The Office of Homeland Security will, in the response and recovery area, coordinate efforts to ensure rapid restoration of transportation systems, energy production, transmission, and distribution systems after disruption by a terrorist threat or attack. It will also ensure the quick re-establishment of public and private critical information systems after disturbance by terrorist activity. The Office will work with the National Economic Council to stabilize U.S. financial markets after a terrorist attack and manage the immediate economic and financial consequences of the incident (Office, 2001: screen). Finally, it will coordinate federal plans and programs to provide medical, financial, and other assistance to victims of terrorist attacks and their families.
One other function of the Office of Homeland Security is ensuring and maintaining preparedness against future terrorist attacks. It will review and assess the adequacy of all federal emergency response plans that have to do with terrorist threats or attacks in the U.S. Also, it will organize domestic exercises and simulations designed to practice systems that would be used to respond to terrorist activity in the nation, as well as coordinate programs for training federal, state, and local employees who would be chosen to respond to such activity. The Office will manage federal assistance to state and local authorities to prepare for and respond to terrorist activity in the U.S., along with ensuring that national preparedness programs for terrorist threats or attacks are developed and regularly evaluated.
A looming question in the population’s mind is how will homeland defense affect most Americans? Will the relaxed, freedom-loving atmosphere be forever changed when we see military personnel guarding airports, or twice as many police officers where before there were none? In the beginning, perhaps, just a large and healthy case of the jitters. A lot of people were affected by the tragedy and everyone needs to recognize that it could happen again, maybe to them. But as weeks and months pass, how will homeland defense affect most Americans?
“In Atlanta, for example, mortgage banker Victoria Highfill teaches her daughter Tori to look for things out of the ordinary and to not be shy about reporting something strange to the police'” (Kenworthy, 2001: screen). Aside from much longer lines at airports and even more rigorous workplace security measures, many citizens won’t notice a change in their lives at all. “A survey taken Sept. 21 by the National League of Cities reveals that two-thirds of cities over 100,000 are reassessing their emergency plans, although 83% have a terrorism response plan in place” (Kenworthy, 2001: screen). The largest impact that the Office has on American citizens is, in fact, a greater feeling of togetherness.
Boston_Liberty. “Establishing the Office of Homeland Security and the Homeland Security Council – Text of EO.” 10 Oct. 2001. Online Posting. FreeRepublic. 1 Apr. 2002. <http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/544498/posts>
Kenworthy, Tom. Struggling to Create A Homeland Defense. 8 Oct. 2001. 1 Apr. 2002. <http://www.usatoday.com/news/attack/2001/10/09/homeland.htm>
Stenger, Richard. Domestic Security Czar to Tame Bowl of Spaghetti.’ 21 Sept. 2001. 1 Apr. 2002. ;http://www.cnn.com/2001/US/09/21/rec.homeland.defense/;
The White House. 1 Apr. 2002. ;http://www.whitehouse.gov/homeland/ridgebio.html;
The White House. Sept. 2001. 1 Apr. 2002. ;http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010920-8.v.smil;
The White House. Oct. 2001. 1 Apr. 2002. ;http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/10/20011008.html;