The United States and its citizens are constantly under the threat of attack from organizations and individuals committed to destroying this great nation. These threats may be the result of military conflicts with other nation states or may come from international or domestic terrorists, any of which could include the potential for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive (CBRNE) attacks on American soil. In order to preserve this country and protect its citizens, a vast army of homeland security professionals must continuously monitor world and domestic activity.
Since the attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States has been actively engaged in the war on terrorism. With the recognition that the country is vulnerable to attacks from any nation or organization on the planet, the U.S. government has changed its defensive posture from a wait and react system, to one of aggressive interdiction. The nation now has policies in place that seek to identify and eliminate threats before they fully manifest.
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This pro-active policy has energized public and private organizations throughout the country. While the majority of threats to the American public have been identified, there are always newfound methods to injure the country. To counter these emerging threats, homeland security professionals work at all levels of society to collect information about potential threats, develop effective safeguards, and alert law enforcement or counter-terrorism agencies.
Homeland Security at the Federal State and Local Levels
Federal – The federal government’s law enforcement, military and intelligence organizations provide many of the guidelines and policies that govern homeland security operations at the state and local level. Using a variety of programs like the National Incident Management System, which standardizes the operational procedures of local and state agencies in response to a disaster or terrorist incident, and the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Programs, which is a federal template for training exercises, federal-level homeland security helps ensure that government at all levels works in a coordinated fashion.
State – At the state level, homeland security agencies and professionals adopt federal policies and crises models and adapt them to their particular state’s needs. One of the most critical issues for many of these states is the federal homeland security funds they receive. A key metric for this is, of course, the number of state residents. Populous states with major metropolitan hubs receive considerably more money from the federal government to develop and implement homeland security strategies. Since 2001, almost $40 billion in homeland security grants has been dispersed to state and local agencies.
Local – While the majority of U.S. cities do not require robust counter-terrorism measures, major cities have mimicked the federal government’s pro-active policies. The government has also recognized that cities like New York, Los Angeles and Boston, which have already been the targets of terrorist attacks, are still the most high profile and likely targets. In order to counter these threats, the U.S. government has provided considerable funding, training, and equipment to the homeland security agencies of these high profile cities. Under the Urban Areas Security Initiative, the following cities have received considerable funding for homeland security programs:
- New York City $1.4 billion
- Los Angeles $644 million
- Washington D.C. $568 million
- Chicago $478 million
- San Francisco $359 million
Private Sector – While saving American lives is the most important metric for the success of homeland security initiatives, the effect of terrorist incidents on U.S. businesses cannot be underestimated. Many private corporations provide critical services in transportation, utilities and defense projects that require strong security planning. Homeland security professionals in the private sector provide expertise on a range of issues critical to these companies, including cyber security and business continuity planning.