The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a Cabinet department of the federal government of the United States that is concerned with protecting the American homeland and the safety of American citizens. This department was created primarily from a conglomeration of existing federal agencies in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The department was established on November 25, 2002 by the Homeland Security Act and officially began operation on January 24, 2003. After months of discussion about employee rights and benefits and "rider" portions of the bill, Congress passed it shortly after the midterm elections, and it was signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush. It was intended to consolidate U.S. executive branch organizations related to "homeland security" into a single cabinet agency.
It was the largest government reorganization in 50 years (since the United States Department of Defense was created). The department assumed a number of government functions previously in other departments. It superseded, but did not replace the Office of Homeland Security, which retained an advisory role.
The new Department was initially headed by former governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge, who had chaired the Office of Homeland Security since October 2001. On November 30, 2004, Ridge announced his resignation. President Bush chose former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik as his successor, but on December 10, Kerik withdrew his nomination citing personal reasons and saying it "would not be in the best interests" of the country for him to pursue the post. On January 11, 2005, President Bush nominated federal judge Michael Chertoff to succeed Ridge.
President George W. Bush signs the Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2004.
Controversy about adoption centered on whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency should be incorporated in part or in whole (both were not). The bill itself was also controversial for the presence of unrelated riders, as well as eliminating some standard civil service and labor protections from employees of the department. President Bush wanted the right to fire an employee within Homeland Security immediately for security reasons, for incompetence, or insubordination. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle wanted an appeals process that could take up to 18 months or as little as one month.
On March 12, 2002, the Homeland Security Advisory System, a color-coded terrorism risk advisory scale, was created as a Presidential Directive to provide a "comprehensive and effective means to disseminate information regarding the risk of terrorist acts to Federal, State, and local authorities and to the American people." Since January 2003, it has been administered in coordination with the DHS; it has also been the target of frequent jokes and ridicule about its percieved ineffectiveness.
- 2002 - Homeland Security Act (PL 107-296)
- 2003 - Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2004 (PL 108-90)