What is it that you do exactly? E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

Here’s a question for you. What is Homeland Security? Is it what we used to call national security? Is it public safety? Is it a massive sinkhole where taxpayer money gets dumped to be lavished on former government employees through no-bid, cost-plus contracts? If you have no idea what “homeland security” is, or what DHS does you’re not alone. No one knows. Not even the folks at DHS.

According to a new report from the Congressional Research Service, “homeland security” is whatever the government says it is.

One thing is for sure - DHS is one of the most massive bureaucracies ever created.

Some 30 federal entities focused on everything from agriculture to education, from treasury to social security, are receiving “homeland security” funding.

“Ten years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. government does not have a single definition for homeland security,” the report said.

“Currently, different strategic documents and mission statements offer varying missions that are derived from different homeland security definitions.”

The Congressional Research Service examined seven key documents from the White House and Department of Homeland Security outlining the government’s loosely defined "homeland security mission.”

A main theme in the mission statements was terrorism.

But just one statement included “border and maritime security, and immigration,” the report said. Natural disasters were included in four of them, the report noted. Another definition used the phrase “other hazards” to define any threat other than terrorism.

According to the report:

“Varied homeland security definitions and missions may impede the development of a coherent national homeland security strategy, and may hamper the effectiveness of congressional oversight. Definitions and missions are part of strategy development. Policymakers develop strategy by identifying national interests, prioritizing goals to achieve those national interests, and arraying instruments of national power to achieve the national interests. Developing an effectivehomeland security strategy, however, may be complicated if the key concept of homeland security is not defined and its missions are not aligned and synchronized among different federal entities with homeland security responsibilities.”

And because there is no defined mission for an agency budgeted annually in the billions with hundreds of thousands of employees, those that warned that the Department of Homeland Security would inevitably fall victim to mission creep appear to have been correct.

For instance, late last year, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was expanding its activities beyond terrorism to something it calls "public safety."

That sounds vaguely familiar.

According to a report from Wired Magazine, DHS is now experimenting with using drones in "first responder" and "law enforcement" types of "scenarios," Wired.com reports.

Homeland Security officials say they plan to use its drones and their attached cameras to watch and police sporting events, political events, and large public gatherings. This is not good news if you’re local law enforcement and you earn overtime at similar events.

And even more recently Democrats and Republicans in Washington are now discussing a plan to give Homeland Security and the Justice Department authority over all the drones flown in America's skies, including those owned and operated by local police departments.

But don’t worry. It’s all for the best. The fact that no one, not Michael Chertoff, not Janet Napolitano, no one, knows what homeland security is or why we’re paying for it, is really just a minor detail.

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