Homeland Security Has Too Many Definitions, Says CRS

01.09.13 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The existence of multiple, overlapping and inconsistent definitions of the term “homeland security” reflects and reinforces confusion in the homeland security mission, according to a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service.

“Ten years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. government does not have a single definition for ‘homeland security.’ [Instead,] different strategic documents and mission statements offer varying missions that are derived from different homeland security definitions.”

Most official definitions of homeland security include terrorism prevention.  Many but not all encompass disaster response. Most do not include border security, or maritime security, or immigration matters, or general resilience, though some do.

“An absence of consensus about the inclusion of these policy areas may result in unintended consequences for national homeland security operations,” the CRS report said. “For example, not including maritime security in the homeland security definition may result in policymakers, Congress, and stakeholders not adequately addressing maritime homeland security threats, or more specifically being able to prioritize federal investments in border versus intelligence activities.”

“The competing and varied definitions in these documents may indicate that there is no succinct homeland security concept. Without a succinct homeland security concept, policymakers and entities with homeland security responsibilities may not successfully coordinate or focus on the highest prioritized or most necessary activities.”

“At the national level, there does not appear to be an attempt to align definitions and missions among disparate federal entities,” CRS said.

Without a uniform definition, a coherent strategy cannot be formulated and homeland security policy is rudderless.  “Potentially, funding is driving priorities rather than priorities driving the funding.”

Speaking of funding, there are thirty federal departments, agencies, and entities receiving annual homeland security funding excluding the Department of Homeland Security, the CRS report said.  In fact, approximately 50% of homeland security funding is appropriated for agencies other than the Department of Homeland Security.

See Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and Congressional Considerations, January 8, 2013.