Monday, May. 02, 2011

The Department of Homeland Security

"I ask the Congress," President George W. Bush said in a June, 2002 televised address to the nation, "to join me in creating a single, permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the American homeland and protecting the American people." Before September 11, most Americans might have thought the government had such basic aims covered.

The Department of Homeland Security — constituting "what the White House touts as the biggest reorganization of government in more than a half-century" as TIME put it — was established by the Homeland Security Act in November of 2002 and operational as of March 1, 2003. It encompassed 22 existing agencies including Customs, FEMA, the Coast Guard, and the Secret Service. Tom Ridge, the former Governor of Pennsylvania and then Homeland Security Adviser (at the Office of Homeland Security, which had been created in the immediate wake of 9/11), joined the Cabinet as the first head of the new department. He was succeeded by Michael Chertoff. When President Barack Obama appointed Janet Napolitano to the position in 2008, he announced "she will be a leader who can reform a sprawling Department while safeguarding our homeland."