Jeff and Christine's Homeland Security Blog

Homeland Security and Terrorism

Posts Tagged ‘DHS

Considering Jobs in the Homeland Security Field

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Who are Homeland Security professionals, and what do they do?  There’s a lot of diversity in Homeland Security jobs.  Some are at the federal level, mostly with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a federal department created in 2002 in response to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.  According to DHS, the department’s overriding mission is to lead the unified national effort to secure our country and preserve our freedoms.

 The Department of Homeland Security has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face. This requires the dedication of more than 240,000 employees in jobs that range from aviation and border security to emergency response, from cybersecurity analyst to chemical facility inspector. Our duties are wide-ranging, but our goal is clear – keeping America safe.  (


DHS is among the largest Federal agencies, because it was created by merging 22 existing departments and agencies which had a part of the overall Homeland Security mission.  If you’ve been through an airport lately, you’ll have seen DHS Transportation Security Agency officers on the job.  If you know someone who has applied to immigrate to the US or who has become a citizen, that person got assistance from a DHS Citizenship and Immigration officer.  DHS Border Patrol agents help keep smugglers from bringing people and goods into the country unlawfully.  If your community faced a serious disaster, like a major hurricane, DHS Federal Emergency Management officers were on the scene.  People who live along the coasts, or near major rivers and lakes, know that the US Coast Guard is there to secure the waterways and save lives.

Other DHS officers help local police and firefighters prepare for emergencies, including potential terrorist attacks, and some help companies and individuals protect their computer systems from attack.

Here are a few of the jobs DHS officers do:

  •  Customs and Border Protection
  •  Federal Emergency Management
  •  Transportation Security
  •  Coast Guard
  •  Secret Service
  • Counterterrorism
  • Cybersecurity Analysis


As you can see, Homeland  Security is a broad field which includes some very different kinds of work… but all in service of the same unified mission.  Choosing a Homeland Security career means taking a close look at your own strengths and interests, and at position requirements, to make sure you find a good fit.

Homeland Security jobs aren’t just at the Department of Homeland Security, though.  Most people in Homeland Security career fields work at the local level, as law enforcement officers, emergency management officials, security staff at private companies, utilities, or other facilities, and firefighters or emergency medical services technicians.

Let’s consider jobs in each of these three categories:

  •  First responders.  These are local officers who are the first at the scene when people need help.  They include police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical crews.
  •  Private sector security professionals.  These are essential, because over 85 percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure (meaning those buildings and facilities of the greatest importance to national security and economic survival) belongs to private owners, not to government.  Private owners and operators are the first line of defense for their own security, and they hire professional security staff to manage the job.
  •  Emergency management professionals.  Most local governments, like cities and counties, have an emergency management office to respond to disasters.  These include natural disasters like floods, fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes, and disasters created by human actions, like terrorist attacks or a crime endangering a large number of victims.  States also have emergency management agencies.  (The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the Department of Homeland Security, handles this at the federal level.)   In addition to jobs with local governments, emergency management professionals also work for private-sector organizations which respond to crises, like the American Red Cross.


Grades Are In… a Report Card for Homeland Security

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Every year, the Homeland Security Today website issues a report card for Homeland Security efforts during the twelve months between each September 11 anniversary. For the year September 11, 2010 – September 10, 2011, HST writer David Silverberg focused on the death of Usama bin Laden and the wave of popular uprisings in the Middle East known as the Arab Spring.

To HST, this was an especially important year: The year 2011 marks a turning point in homeland security and a decisive year in world history of equal significance to 2001. Whether that means an improvement or a worsening depends on each of us and our actions in the year to come… The death of Osama Bin Laden and the Arab Spring was a cleansing wind throughout the Middle East and a huge blow to Al Qaeda’s jihad.

The report card includes a timeline of key events and a judgment on performance in four areas: Overseas and Foreign Policy; the Nation; and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Government, States and Localities. The analysis of the effects of bin Ladin’s death and the Arab Spring movement is complemented by a look at the significance of narcotics-fueled violence along the US-Mexico border. Bin Ladin’s end meant that Homeland Security could finally look in new directions and make some necessary updates:

Liberated, in a sense, by the death of Osama Bin Laden, this was the year that Napolitano and the Obama administration unveiled new strategies for dealing with terrorism and transnational crime. They also broke with the past by discarding the previous color-coded alert system. At the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), Pistole preserved airport screening as a purely government domain and empowered unions by permitting collective bargaining. The Department of Defense memorandum of agreement on cybersecurity helped clarify responsibilities.

As for DHS, Silverberg thought the agency made progress in building its internal capacity and its relationships with other agencies. However, he anticipates that government-wide budget cutting will damage the overall status of homeland security in states and localities as DHS funding drops, even if DHS fares better financially than other parts of government. Silverberg also notes a wave of discontent with airport screening procedures, but recent changes to a “risk-based” system may help reduce public anger.

Here’s what Silverberg expects for the coming year. Would you agree with his assessment of the most pressing homeland security challenges?

The year ahead will present the challenge of working with new Arab governments to further democracy and friendly relations with the United States and completing the defeat of Al Qaeda and jihadism in the Middle East. Closer to home, the challenge will be to prevent narco-cartel violence and corruption from further infecting the United States. Although levels of illegal immigration and shipments of contraband are lower than those of previous years, conflict on the US border and in Mexico remain.

From our perspective, some additional challenges to consider include building a national consensus in support of disaster relief funding, and addressing the growing share of terror attacks from domestic sources. FEMA’s funding is hanging in the balance during a year of natural calamities, and political wrangling is making the issue all the more delicate. The face of terror now statistically tends to look like most of America– homegrown radicals, most with a militant anti-government agenda rather than an Islamic extremist objective.

DHS has a massive mission, since it must handle both of these problems and many others. Students of Homeland Security will be solving a wider range of problems than professionals in most other fields, so the need for preparation is pressing.

Written by Homeland Security

September 28, 2011 at 15:48