Department of Homeland Security: A Case Study in Governmental Reorganization
The Department of Homeland Security is designed to protect the country against various threats. Most notably, it is designed to protect the United States from terrorism on American soil. This particular department was created after the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001. It is a cabinet-level post and the need for it was seen after the attacks. Originally, it appeared that very few, if any, people in the United States, in the government or otherwise, thought that the United States would be or could be vulnerable to terrorists. Many of the countries that had grudges against the United States or that did not get along with the country were shown by the American media to be poorly organized and certainly not brave enough to attack the most powerful nation in the world.
However, September 11, 2001 proved people wrong. It did something else as well, however. It showed the American people that they were vulnerable and that they must be more careful. It also showed the government that it must take more steps to protect the American citizens and others living within its borders, and that the terrorists in other countries had been seriously underestimated. With this realization, the Department of Homeland Security was created. There was some governmental reorganization that took place during this time as individuals that were believed to be worthy of this type of position were appointed to various posts that had been newly created in an effort to ensure the future safety of the country and make those that live in the United States begin to feel secure again.
Statement of the Problem
Whether the Department of Homeland Security is actually working well is something that is still strongly debated. There are those that feel it is doing a great job, and there are those that feel it is only a name without much backing behind it. There are several reasons for the different opinions that these individuals have. The main reason that many feel the department is doing its job is that there have been no more serious terrorist attacks on American soil. This is, naturally, very important. However, those that do not feel the department is doing enough are very concerned that there are still so many problems with Iraq and that many of the United States’ most sincere enemies (such as Osama bin Laden) have still not been captured.
Even though the department is supposed to protect the United States, there is reason to believe that terrorists would attack again if they felt that they could, and therefore the department’s job is also to see that these terrorists are stopped in other countries before they have a chance to harm the United States again. While this is undoubtedly a difficult job, the largest concern remains the fact that it does not appear to be getting done. Little has actually been accomplished and therefore the Department of Homeland Security is falling under the scrutiny of many. It does not appear as though it is “managing for results.”
Assumptions have been made that the Department of Homeland Security is working well, since there have been no more terrorist attacks on the country since September 11, 2001. However, the absence of terrorist activity does not actually equate to the efficiency of the Department, and therefore there are research questions that must be examined. There are four research questions that are expected to be answered. These questions are:
1) Does the information collected through a thorough literature review regarding the creation of the Department of Homeland Security give individuals enough information about the Department and what it does?
2) What do individuals that are in the military think of what their government is doing with this department?
3) What do civilians think of what their government is doing with this department?
4) Will the Department of Homeland Security be willing to discuss their Department, their objectives and what they feel has been accomplished? (This may not be something that can be answered due to security concerns, but it will be attempted).
The main question that comes from the information above is: Is the Department of Homeland Security really fulfilling its aims and keeping the United States safe from the threat of terrorism?
Whether this is the case is something that must be answered, as there are those that do not feel that the Department is doing enough, and many people also remain confused as to what the Department actually does. When it was formed, it was in the news a great deal, but since there have been no more large terrorist attacks on American soil, it is now mentioned much less frequently. This could indicate that the Department is doing its job, but it is also possible that the terrorists that threaten the United States have simply not yet arranged another attack. If they do arrange another attack, could it be avoided and would the Department of Homeland Security be instrumental in ensuring this avoidance?
Significance of the Study
The study is very significant, not just for military operations, but also for all people that live in the United States. The threat of terrorism is still very real and therefore all individuals must remain vigilant. When the World Trade Center attack took place, and for some time after that, there were a lot of people in the country that were very paranoid. This paranoia is not necessary, but being careful and exercising caution is still something that should be done. Those that lost loved ones during the terrorist attacks are likely more vigilant than those that did not, but all Americans are aware of what happened and the possibility that it could still happen again if caution is not exercised.
A study that deals with the Department of Homeland Security and what others think about what the department has done and what it is capable of can help Americans understand this Department better. It can also help those that work in the military to be more knowledgeable regarding this department and help others understand it more fully. By doing this, the Department can also learn about the issues that others may have and what kinds of things that they should be doing to help the American people feel safe.
Definition of Terms
There are only two terms that need to be discussed for this type of study, and these are:
Department of Homeland Security – this department was created after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and designed to ensure that the country would not experience another attack.
Terrorism – terrorism is the use of threats or the use of force to intimidate individuals or groups, and is often directed at political parties.
These definitions are the only ones that really need to be pointed out here, as the other terms that will be used in the study are common knowledge terms that should not pose a problem for understanding for any individuals that read this study or utilize its information in future studies of this kind.
Review of the Literature
Reviewing the literature is a very important part of any study. For this study, there is not a great deal of space to review the literature, but it is still significant to look at what is available on the Department of Homeland Security. There is a lot of information, but the history of the organization is something that does not have a lot written about it, since it has not been established for long enough to actually have much said about it or to determine whether it will be efficient and beneficial to America in the long run.
Availability of Literature
The amount of literature that can be found on the Department of Homeland Security is staggering. Searches on the Internet returned literally thousands of matches. However, many of these kinds of Web sources are not legitimate and it is much better to stay with government Web sites, newspapers, journals, and other media that are accepted and respected as being reliable and valid and that are much less likely to provide erroneous information.
Organization of the Literature Review
The literature review will be organized chronologically, and will look at what caused the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, what has happened to it since then, and what kinds of changes that been made during the brief time that it has been in operation. Also looked at will be how much money was spent for each of its separate agencies in 2001-2003. This is important in order to understand how the funding for various things has changed based on knowledge and information that has been obtained by the government and what has been seen to work and not work where this particular government Department is seen.
Even though the Department of Homeland Security has not been around that long, there has been a lot of information written about it and there has also been a lot about managing large departments and organizations in general. The management of large organizations is a very crucial issue, whether they are government-related or not (Argyris, 1993; Argyris & Schon, 1978; Broom, Jackson, Harris, & Vogelsang-Coombs, n.d.; Brown & Brudney, 2003; Hatry, 1999; Haynes, 1999). Often, however, the government does not seem to realize that it must manage itself in the same way that a business would in certain aspects if it is to succeed and therefore it does not market itself to the public.
The spending that has been involved with the Department of Homeland Security is also crucial, because it has changed over time to reflect the needs and the realization of what it takes to make the Department work (Eggen & Mintz, 2003). This spending is important to discuss, because it indicates how much of the government’s money – and by extension how much of the tax dollars of Americans – is going toward funding this Department and the work that it is doing to stop terrorists from striking this country again. The following table, which has been reproduced for this paper, shows the amount of money spent on each area of the Department of Homeland Security for three years.
Table 1. Homeland Security Funding by Department or Agency, Fiscal Years 2001 to 2003 (in millions)
Department of Agriculture
Department of Commerce
National Security/Department of Defense (b)
Department of Education
Department of Energy
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of the Interior
Department of justice
Department of Labor
Department of State
Department of the Treasury
Department of Transportation
Department of Veterans
Agency for International
Corporation for National
District of Columbia
Executive Office of the President
Federal Emergency Management
National Aeronautic’s and Spare Administration
National Capital Planning
National Gallery of Art
National Science Foundation
Office of Personnel
Securities and Exchange
US Postal Service
US Army Corps of Engineers
Other small/independent agencies
Reproduced from the following: GAO Source OMB MemorandumM-02-14, “Additional Information Requirements for Overseas Combating Terrorism and Homeland Security for the FY 2004 Budget” (August 8, 2002) and GAO analysis.
The belief among many is that the Department of Homeland Security started off well and was a good idea, but may not go far enough or be as efficient as it actually needs to be (Dunham, 2002; Eggen, 2003; Fredrickson & LaPorte, 2002). The Web site information from the Department, however, would contradict this view. According to the Web site, the Department of Homeland Security has the “capability to anticipate, preempt and deter threats to the homeland whenever possible, and the ability to respond quickly when such threats do materialize” (Threats, n.d.). Whether the Department is actually as capable as it claims to be regarding this, however, is something that is not actually known by most individuals, and so they are left with their opinions of what should be done and what is being done by the Department of Homeland Security.
As can be seen from the review of the literature, the Department of Homeland Security has not been around long and has had to adjust and adapt rather fast. In doing this, there have been some problems and issues that have had to be dealt with, and there are likely still ‘bugs’ that have to be worked out. However, it also appears that the Department is aware of most if not all of these problems and therefore it is only a matter of time before they are corrected. During that time, however, there are still vulnerabilities in the system and America is not completely safe.
Description of Research
The research methods for this particular study will deal primarily with a review of literature and information that has already been collected or created by others when it comes to the Department of Homeland Security. This will include books, articles, magazines, newspapers, media transcripts, and any other type of print information that may be located. If any Internet sources are used, they must be reputable sources, such as University or Government web pages. This information will be used in the literature review and also used for a qualitative analysis of the data in order to help determine whether the Department of Homeland Security is actually doing the job that it has set out to do, or whether there are problems and issues that need to be resolved.
The rest of the research will deal with interviews with military personnel and civilians, and presumably with the Department of Homeland Security itself. These interviews will also be included in the data analysis section in order to determine what public feeling is toward this department and what the department itself has to say regarding its record and the concerns that individuals in this country are voicing when it comes to whether they are any more secure now. Whether the Department of Homeland Security will talk with the researcher remains to be seen, since security issues are often a problem for these types of governmental organizations. This may hinder that particular aspect of the research, but should not affect the other aspects in any way.
There is no complex instrument that is used for this study. Instead, the researcher will simply review the information that has been found in the literature review and also survey 20 military individuals and 20 civilians as to whether they feel that the Department of Homeland Security is doing a good job and why they feel that way. While this is indeed simplistic, the qualitative nature of the study requires that people’s thoughts and feelings be expressed. These thoughts and feelings are often more important than statistical information, because they indicate the tide of public opinion.
The data will be gathered by collecting written information from those that were surveyed. This written information will then be compiled and studied to determine how many of the 40 people surveyed feel that the Department of Homeland Security is doing a good job and whether there are higher rates of acceptance for military or civilians. These acceptance rates are important, as they will help indicate whether there is a significant difference between what the military thinks of the Department and what civilians think of the Department, which may indicate some things that the Department could do to improve relations with those that do not feel that they are doing enough.
The analysis of the data will deal with compiling the information collected and examining it to see if there are any trends that show up in civilian or military information, and how many of each group feel that the Department of Homeland Security is doing what it should be to ensure America’s safety. This opinion of the American people is important to the researcher and should be important to the government as well. It is not expected that the Department will be able to please everyone, no matter what it does, but there may be a trend of problems that can be avoided if the Department is aware of some of the concerns that the American people actually have.
As with any study, this one has some limitations. While it is important to discuss and recognize them, there is also only so much space that can be utilized for this. Due to this, there are two limitations that will be pointed out here. First, the study has a small sample size. This is not always a problem, but it can be a problem for some studies. A larger sample would, naturally, give a more complete and accurate representation of the issue. Second, the study is qualitative. Many studies are quantitative and deal with facts and figures.
These studies provide a lot of information, but they do not always allow for the thoughts of the participants. Because of this, the true feelings of the individuals are often overlooked. In a qualitative study, however, these things are not overlooked. The disadvantage to this qualitative type of study is that the facts and figures that many want to see in a study will not be present. Whether this is a true limitation is actually debatable, but it is mentioned here to ensure that it is understood by all.
Presentation and Analysis of Survey Data
Presentation of Data
The data that was collected for this study came from the literature review as well as from the surveys that were taken. There were 20 civilians and 20 individuals in the military that were surveyed regarding the Department of Homeland Security, whether it was doing its job, and what was thought about it. These surveys were important to get the feel of what people really thought regarding the creation of this department and whether it was necessary, as well as whether it is efficient and effective when it comes to protection from terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security would not participate for security reasons, and this was somewhat expected by the researcher.
Analysis of Results
The literature review indicated that much of what was thought about terrorism and how safe the United States was might not have been as accurate as many people thought. In other words, Americans thought that they were safe, but they actually were not, since there was much more of a chance of terrorism than they were expecting. After 9/11, some of that thinking changed, which had much to do with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the changes that have taken place in government.
As for the rest of the analysis, that comes from the surveys that were collected. There were 20 of each – both civilian and military. Fifteen of the civilians that answered the surveys indicated that they did not feel that the Department of Homeland Security was doing enough to keep the country safe, and that a terrorist attack had not happened simply because America’s enemies had not yet chosen to attack again. The other five civilians indicated their contentment with the safety that they felt in their country and stated that they believed the Department of Homeland Security was doing enough to protect the country and did not need to change what they were doing.
As for the military, they seemed to be behind the Department more than the civilians were. Eighteen of the 20 military individuals surveyed were happy with the Department and believed that it was doing its job. Only two individuals in the military stated that they did not feel that the Department of Homeland Security was keeping the country safer than what it was before 9/11. Most people also declined to make suggestions about what could be done to improve the Department of Homeland Security, but the two military individuals that expressed their dissatisfaction did state that the Department was created too hastily and needed to be much better organized before it would actually be beneficial to the American public when it came to preventing terrorism.
More military individuals then civilians were happy with the Department of Homeland Security, but those military individuals that were not happy were willing to express their views. Civilians were less willing to express their feelings about what should be changed in the Department, and they were also much less happy overall with the Department itself. This indicated that the Department must do something more to convince the public that they are keeping the country safe.
Conclusions and Recommendations
It can be concluded from this study that it is necessary to work with the public more carefully to ensure that they understand the purpose of the Department of Homeland Security and what the Department really does when it comes to keeping them safe from terror. It appears that many people are dissatisfied with the job that is being done by the Department, but this could stem from the idea that there is simply not enough known about the Department and therefore it appears as though they are not doing anything. The military seems happier with the Department, and it is also likely that military individuals have a greater understanding of what the Department is actually doing.
The most important recommendation for the Department of Homeland Security is that it should work to ensure that people understand how much good it is doing and the seriousness of the task that it faces. It is the belief of the researcher that more people would be satisfied with the job that it does if they understood what that job should be and how the Department is working toward the assurance that all of the country is safe from terrorism.
Argyris, C., (1993). Knowledge for action: A guide to overcoming barriers to organizational change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Argyris, C. & Schon, D.A. (1978). Organizational learning, a theory of action perspective. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Broom, C., Jackson, M., Harris, J., & Vogelsang-Coombs, V. (n.d.). Performance measurement: Concepts and techniques (3rd ed.), workbook. Washington, DC: American Society for Public administration.
Brown, M.M., & Brudney, J.L. (2003). Learning organizations in the public sector? A study of police agencies employing information and technology to advance knowledge. Public Administration Review. 63(1), 30-43.
Dunham, R.S. (2002, June 24). The superagency: A good start, but…, Business Week, i3788, p. 50.
Eggen, D. (2003, February 15). Bush aims to blend counterterrorism efforts, Washington Post, A16.
Eggen, D, & Mintz, J. (2003, January 30). Agency to concentrate intelligence analysis. Washington Pint, A09 (final edition).
Fredrickson, H.G., & LaPorte, T.R. (2002). Airport security, high reliability, and the problem of rationality. Public Administration Review, 62(Special Issue), 33-43.
Hatry, H.P. (1999). Performance measurement: Getting results. Washington, DC: Urban Institute*
Haynes, W. (1999). Strategies for megaproject management: Who’s managing whom? Paper presented at the National American Society for Public Administration Conference in Orlando, Florida.
Threats & Protection (n.d.) Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 14 March 2005 at http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/theme_home6.jsp
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