U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a federal agency designed to protect the United States against threats. Its wide-ranging duties include aviation security, border control, emergency response and cybersecurity.

Eleven days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the White House appointed Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge as the first director of the Office of Homeland Security. The office was designed to oversee and coordinate a comprehensive national strategy to safeguard the country against terrorism and respond to any future attacks. With the passage of the Homeland Security Act by Congress in November 2002, the Department of Homeland Security was formally developed as a standalone, Cabinet-level department. When it was established, the DHS combined 22 different federal departments and agencies into a unified, integrated Cabinet agency.

According to the DHS mission statement, the agency has five core homeland security goals:

  • Prevent terrorism and enhance security
  • Secure and manage U.S. borders
  • Enforce and administer U.S. immigration laws
  • Safeguard and secure cyberspace
  • Ensure resilience to disasters

As the number and scope of threats to U.S. interests from hackers have grown in recent years, cyberterrorism prevention has become a key aspect of DHS homeland security efforts. The DHS ensures civilian government computer systems are secure and works with industry and state, local, tribal and territorial governments to secure critical infrastructure and information systems. The DHS also analyzes cyberthreats and vulnerabilities, distributes cyberthreat warnings and coordinates cyber incident response.

This was last updated in July 2013

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