Has the term as defined in 2002 grown to encompass more?
In 2002, homeland security was defined as “a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur” (Office of Homeland Security, 2002). Back then, this definition largely encompassed preventing terrorist activities. This was because the country had experienced one of the worst terrorist attacks in its history and the effects of this had not left the people’s minds. Terrorist activities were defined as “any premeditated, unlawful act dangerous to human life or public welfare that is intended to intimidate or coerce civilian populations or governments” (Office of Homeland Security, 2002).
In 2007, the definition given for homeland security remained the same but it entailed so much more. The country had witnessed hurricane Katrina, the worst national disaster in its history. Threats broadened in meaning to include those that are caused naturally and those that occur because of human actions. Threats also include infectious diseases, floods, earthquakes, industrial hazards and infrastructure failures. The government identified seventeen critical infrastructure and key resources. Some of these include agriculture and food, chemical, banking and finance, drinking water and water treatment services, energy, information technology and telecommunications among others (Homeland Security Council, 2007).
Should the definition be changed? If so, what elements should be included in the new definition?
The definition of homeland security should change to reflect all the changes that have been made. Terrorism is a premeditated and unlawful act directed towards people. Natural disasters and system failures on the other hand are not premeditated and they cannot be defined in legal terms. This definition is limiting and one would think that the duties of the homeland security are only concerned with terrorist activities and other activities related to terrorism. Someone who needed help in case of disasters such as floods would not know where to go or who to ask for help. The aim is to make America safer, stronger and more prepared (Homeland Security Council, 2007). The definition of homeland security should be changed to include other threats other than terrorism.
Several cases involving gang violence, school shooting and other foul crimes have been reported. In some of these cases, such as school shooting, the suspect committed the crime alone. These cases are considered criminal activities rather than acts of terrorism. Taking into account the definition of terrorism, the acts were actually premeditated, unlawful and dangerous. In addition to this, they were directed towards a person or a group of persons. This therefore proves that such cases are acts of terrorism but in some instances, they are not regarded as such. A new definition of terrorism should broaden the definition of terrorism and put in the natural and human caused hazards. This might add to the duties of those who are concerned with homeland security but the definition will be all-inclusive and disasters will be handled in a more effective manner.
Do you agree with Dr. Bellavita’s assessment of seven defensible definitions for homeland security?
Bellavita defines homeland security in seven ways. His definitions include terrorism, man-made and natural hazards, catastrophes, jurisdictional hazards, meta-hazards and national security (Bellavita, 2008). Since the original definition has already included the national effort, it is not necessary to distinguish between the definition at the state and the local level. This can be included as part of the various duties to be carried out by different agencies in case disasters occurs. Therefore defining homeland security as being about jurisdictional hazards is not necessary. He goes on to add drug-resistant diseases, pandemics and cyber space in his list of threats while this has already been included under infrastructure and key resources. He posits that if homeland security is about everything, then it is about nothing. I agree with this view because not everything can be about homeland security. If this was the case, people would find the need to blame homeland security for every little thing that happens and they would not see the need to do anything on their own. The current definition, though limiting, ensures that everybody has a role to play to ensure that he or she lives in a safe and secure society and nation.
Bellavita, C. (2008). Changing homeland security: What is homeland security? Homeland Security Affairs, 4(2), 1-30
Homeland Security Council. (2007). National strategy for homeland security. Retrieved from www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/nat_strat_homelandsecurity_2007.pdf
Office of Homeland Security. (2002). National Strategy for homeland security. Retrieved from www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/nat_strat_hls.pdf
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