Jeff and Christine's Homeland Security Blog

Homeland Security and Terrorism

Posts Tagged ‘Federal Emergency Management Agency

Considering Jobs in the Homeland Security Field

leave a comment »

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.  (http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/)

 

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.

 

Natural Disasters: Why Will They Hit Us Harder?

with one comment

We’re used to thinking of natural disasters as random acts of nature, no greater or less in our own century than in earlier times. Some commentators believe the frequency of natural disasters has increased, but what’s certain is that they affect us more than ever before, despite our advances in predicting storms and measuring quakes.

Why? Because human populations are denser than ever before, so it’s likely that a disaster will strike a populated area. In the past, earthquakes and storms often hit regions with few towns or settlements, so death tolls were low.

Likewise, the level of infrastructure was lower in the past. Disasters now destroy not only farms, homes, houses of worship, and markets but also skyscrapers, factories, airports, and microwave towers. The financial cost has gone up along with the human cost. According to Erwann Michel-Kerjann, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in risk management, America is highly vulnerable to natural disasters. Writing in the Washington Post, Michel-Kerjann shows that the economic costs of natural disasters have doubled compared to a similar period 20 years ago:

The world has entered a new era of catastrophes. Economic losses from hurricanes, earthquakes and resulting tsunamis, floods, wildfires and other natural disasters increased from $528 billion (1981-1990) to more than $1.2 trillion over the period 2001-2010. The 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami in Japan this past spring caused hundreds of billions of dollars of direct and indirect costs.

How about the idea that there have been more natural disasters in recent times? The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) studied this idea in a 2005 article. Here’s what UNEP had to say:

With growing population and infrastructures the world’s exposure to natural hazards is inevitably increasing. This is particularly true as the strongest population growth is located in coastal areas (with greater exposure to floods, cyclones and tidal waves). To make matters worse any land remaining available for urban growth is generally risk-prone, for instance flood plains or steep slopes subject to landslides. The statistics in this graphic reveal an exponential increase in disasters. This raises several questions. Is the increase due to a significant improvement in access to information? What part does population growth and infrastructure development play? Finally, is climate change behind the increasing frequency of natural hazards?

In late September 2011, funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was at the center of budget battles in Washington. While the situation was temporarily resolved, a fundamental challenge remains: as more Americans will be facing natural disasters in years to come, is there still a national consensus that disaster victims can count on Federal help?

Graphic courtesy of UNEP

Terrorism, 9/11, and the Security Profession

with 4 comments

9/11: This single event caused our nation to become fully aware of the challenge presented by a well-funded, ideologically driven enemy which was not based in one location or country and whose members were willing to commit suicide attacks. Securing our nation became our nation’s number one top priority.

Terrorism has been among mankind in one form or another throughout most of our history. Today, due in part to the existence of weapons of mass destruction, terrorists and their organizations have the potential to wreak havoc on a very large scale.

In the 1990’s, complacency took hold among government leadership and agencies, due in part to a sense of security brought on by the fall of the Soviet Empire. National security agencies reduced vigilance and readiness as political leaders voted to cut budgets for people and programs. The slashing of intelligence and defense budgets and planned attrition of expertise among key government agencies created an environment ripe for a terrorist attack to occur on US soil.

After the 9/11 attacks, national security agencies experienced a dramatic overhaul. Only an event of such magnitude could cause such major restructuring in federal agencies, where change is generally incremental. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from disparate agencies like the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services within DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency brought many professional areas under the same Cabinet-level department. The case of the US Coast Guard is even more unusual; it’s part of DHS, but at the same time remains a military service.

What does this mean for students of Homeland Security? You can look forward to careers in specialties ranging from IT security to emergency management to law enforcement, at the federal, state, or local level. Hiring for security careers is slower than it was right after 9/11, but security remains a priority, and security employment is likely to be more stable than average.