Homeland Security Policy

One of the most debated products of the War on Terror is the USA PATRIOT Act.

Assess this Act on the trade-off between security and civil rights.

Has this Act been effective, efficient, equal, and ethical?

Does the Freedom Act of 2015 correct any of these issues?


Kraft, Michael and Scott Furlong. (2015) Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives. Sage Press.

Homeland Security and Foreign Policy

Because of the depth, breadth, and expanse of issues that fall under foreign policy, our course readings won’t focus on major programs or policies, but rather will emphasize key issues and address questions about how to assess the effectiveness of new policies since 9/11.

To start our discussion, let’s ensure that we have a common working definition for key terms:

Defense policy

Part of foreign policy; refers to the goals set to conduct national security affairs

National Security Council (NCS)

Chaired by the President and includes VP, Sec. of State, Sec. of Treasury, Sec. of Defense, the President’s National Security Advisor, and many invited national-level players

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

An alliance between the US and Western European nations

World Trade Organization (WTO)

Administers trade agreements and settles conflicts over trade disputes

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

Correlates, evaluates, and disseminates intelligence to the president that affects national security

Director of National Intelligence (DNI)

Person the leads the US Intelligence Community (to include CIA), but without personnel or budget authority

National Security Agency (NSA)

Works to protect the US government’s information system and collect foreign signal intelligence information (also part of DoD and the Intelligence Community)

US Agency for International Development (USAID)

Distributes and manages economic aid (money the US sends directly to other nations)

Take a look at the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Historian website. It provides timelines, historical references and documents on foreign policy since 1775. It’s a good resource to examine some of the periods of great foreign policy activity and to assess the role and shifts of the Department of State.

As we shift over from foreign policy to homeland security, we need to adjust our lenses slightly from the conversation above. While international affairs and foreign policy are directly tied to the security of our borders and the policy associated with protecting our country, our focus will be tied more specifically to defense policy and law enforcement. We drill deeper into the efforts made to protect our citizens.

Department of Homeland Security

The key US agency focused on national/homeland security is the Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 2001. Its primary responsibility is to protect the American homeland from future attacks, particularly terrorist attacks, as well as man-made crises or natural disasters. In 2003, DHS acquired the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the US Coast Guard, the Secret Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. One of DHS’s more well-known sub-agencies is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). DHS employs more than 200,000 employees, making it the third largest department in the president’s cabinet (after the Department of Defense and Veteran’s Affairs).

Explore DHS’s mission, focus areas, and projects as a primer for a deeper understanding of its policies. Did you know that beyond terrorism and border control, DHS also cover cyberattacks, responses to natural disasters, and organized crime within our borders? So, when we consider homeland security, we have to look outside of the scope of our traditional lenses. This policy topic is much broader and covers most activities within our country that impact the security, life, and liberty of American citizens.

UN Security Council

The textbook authors touched on the United Nations Security Council. However, the issue of which countries are members and with what authorities is still on-going after many decades. For a current update, please read Lydia Swart and Cile Page’s 2015 article entitled “Changing the Composition of the Security Council: Is There a Viable Solution?”

Air Force Fighters

The authors also discussed the F-22 and F-35. They declared the F-22 “obsolete.” It is just the opposite. It is the most advanced fighter in the world today. While it may have been justified by Soviet military capabilities during the Cold War, it was also designed to replace the F-15 air superiority fighter. Meanwhile, the F-35 was designed to replace the A-10, F-16, and AV-08 fighter aircraft. (It was never intended to replace the F-22 as stated.)

Nuclear Weapons

Next, the authors cited President Obama as proposing a goal to eliminate all nuclear weapons in the world. It would be a good start for the US to eliminate its stockpile of nuclear weapons to set the example and lead the way. To understand why this is realistic and practical, please read the 2013 article by Stephen Schwalbe entitled “It’s Time for the US to Become Non-Nuclear.”

Intelligence Community

Then, the authors discussed the relatively new position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI). However, they did not mention the problems the DNI has running the Intelligence Community with no budget authority or personnel assignment authority. To get a better understanding of the challenges the DNI is facing today, please read the 2010 article by Richard Best entitled “Intelligence Reform After Five Years: The Role of the Director of National Intelligence.”

Next, the authors reviewed the issues regarding the PATRIOT Act and individual privacy. However, most people are not aware of exactly what bulk data NSA is collecting on Americans. It consists of phone numbers and the start and stop times of calls associated with them. So, only a lot of numbers. No real privacy issues here, despite what some senators may say. In any case, a federal court has ruled bulk collection a violation of privacy. So, now the data is held by private telephone companies, and if NSA wants to search it, it must request permission with justification.

National Security Strategy

US foreign policy is outlined for Congress by the White House as a requirement of the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols DoD Reorganization Act in the form of a document entitled the National Security Strategy (NSS). According to the 2010 NSS, America’s enduring interests are: 1) the security of the U.S., its citizens, our allies, and partners; 2) a strong, innovative, and growing economy; 3) respect for universal values at home and around the world; and, 4) an international order advanced by the U.S. leadership that promotes peace, security, and opportunity through stronger cooperation to meet global challenges.

As well, though not directly stated, one of the US foreign policy goals continues to be spreading democracy around the world. In the 2010 NSS, democracy is discussed in various places, to include: “America’s commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are essential sources of our strength and influence in the world;” “Nations that respect human rights and democratic values are more successful and stronger partners…;” and, “Democracies that respect the rights of their people remain successful states and America’s most steadfast allies.” Yet, the advance of democracy and human rights has stalled in many parts of the world.

Consider that not all nations in the world are able or willing to accept democracy (in any form) as a system of government. Regarding the viability of democracy in the Middle East (a strategic goal of OIF), Seymour Martin Lipset (a prolific author/scholar from UC Berkeley) wrote in the late 1950s about what it takes for a nation to acquire democracy (reference “Some Social Requisites of Democracy” in American Political Science Review, March 1959). He cited a half dozen prerequisites for democracy to successfully evolve in any nation. First (but in not in any priority), a nation’s citizens need to have a good literacy rate, reflecting some level of intelligence. Second, the level of education for the majority of the people must be reasonably high (at least high school level). Next, there must be a reasonably-sized middle class in existence, defined by annual income (higher than $8,000 per year). Related to that is the nation’s GDP, it must be at a certain level to sustain democracy. Regarding developing countries that were once colonized, it is important that the British ruled over the country in the past, not other imperial powers. The Brits normally established some type of democratic government in all of its colonies that laid the foundation for future governments. Finally, of all the world’s religions, Protestantism supports the concepts of democracy more than any other. As such, if your nation has a significant number of Protestant followers, it has a better chance of adopting democracy. All of these factors can be measured then applied in case studies for accuracy. Lipset’s foundations of democracy have proven accurate after numerous evaluations and challenges over the years. Finally, many scholars have concluded that democracy is best implemented at the grassroots level (bottom up) rather than imposed (top down), as America has attempted to do in Iraq in 2003.


This week we looked at some of the national policies made regarding the environment and national security.


Kraft, Michael and Scott Furlong. (2015) Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives. Sage Press.

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