A major part of the mission of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is to enable commerce to take place freely. This is accomplished through the safeguarding of the nation’s borders, infrastructure, property, and key resources, all of which are vital to the nation’s economy.
In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush created a new federal agency to coordinate a comprehensive national strategy to protect the United States from future attacks and other threats both foreign and domestic. The mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is to prevent and deter terrorist attacks, respond to national disasters, secure the nation’s borders, protect critical infrastructure and key resources, and promote the free flow of commerce. The creation of this agency required one of the largest transformations of the federal government in more than fifty years. It transformed and realigned the previous confusing patchwork of government activities into a single department responsible for safeguarding the nation.
The DHS and its roughly 200,000 employees encompass twenty-two federal agencies within eighty-seven thousand federal, state, and local government jurisdictions. These include many directorates, services, and agencies that directly and indirectly affect American business. For example, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service and the Transportation Security Administration regulate the movement of goods, services, and people to and from the United States, with major implications for international commerce. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinates disaster relief and the rebuilding of critical infrastructure (electricity, roads, and power) to restore an area’s ability to aid citizens and conduct commerce. The Science and Technology directorate protects U.S. energy and agriculture. The National Protection and Programs directorate and the National Cyber Security Center work to secure the nation against terrorist attacks and natural disasters. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) enforce laws regulating citizenship requirements for employment.
The DHS has introduced major initiatives that affect American business and that can be broken down into three categories: protecting the nation from dangerous persons; protecting the nation from dangerous goods; and protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure. To protect the nation from dangerous persons, the DHS has initiated two programs that also affect business: the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and the Real ID requirement. Each is an initiative to secure identification documentation for persons traveling to or within the United States. These initiatives affect American businesses, businesspeople traveling internationally, and foreign nationals doing business in the United States.
The new identification papers and materials procured by business
To protect the nation’s critical infrastructure, DHS initiatives include increasing cyber security and establishing national standards for security at chemical and power-generating facilities. Federal agencies mandate new, more stringent security measures at facilities that need to be secure to prevent the theft of chemicals or other dangerous materials that could be used as weapons in a terrorist attack. The cost of these new security measures is most likely to be shouldered by private industry, with the costs of such security measures being accounted for as a new cost of doing business.
All Department of Homeland Security programs and initiatives try to balance the protection of America’s people, goods, and infrastructure against allowing for the free flow of legitimate commerce. All such programs come with costs that are inevitably passed along and built into the price of the affected goods and services. The security programs and initiatives come with additional costs and time delays for business.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has been backlogged with millions of citizenship applications and requests for work permits. This added delay and expense in the United States’ ability to attract and secure people with needed skills has a significant negative impact on American commerce. Further, American business has seen a rise in transportation costs for business travelers as a result of added security fees at airports. Business travelers and their luggage are subjected to longer, more extensive security protocols than ever before. The security programs and initiatives come with additional costs and time delays for business. These costs manifest themselves in additional taxes and fees levied by the government, as well as the additional time required to move goods and people across borders.
Transportation of goods is also more expensive due to security programs. In 2004, the Department of Homeland Security announced the Container Security Initiative. Under this plan, U.S. agents inspect shipping containers at foreign ports before they are cleared for entry into the United States. Transporting goods requires greater paperwork and documentation than it did previously to verify the items being shipped, their country of origin, and the transportation routes followed. All this documentation has to be generated, processed, and verified with appropriate Homeland Security agencies. The costs of these plans are passed on to American business through port fees, taxes, tolls, and levies.
The DHS’s mission to protect the United States and secure the free flow of commerce will come with business costs. Each security initiative adds a layer of cost in time and money that American business must take into consideration. The goal of the DHS is to protect and secure the nation while minimizing any interference with American commerce and trade.
Henderson, H. Global Terrorism: The Complete Reference Guide. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001. A general reference resource on international terrorism with a guide for researching terrorism topics. Hoenig, S. L. Handbook of Chemical Warfare and Terrorism. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002. Information on chemicals that can be used as weapons and procedures for preventing and responding to chemical contamination. Kushner, H. W. Encyclopedia of Terrorism. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2003. Three hundred entries covering many aspects of terrorism, including individuals, groups, events, methods, and responses. Maxwell, B., ed. Homeland Security: A Documentary History. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2004. A history of American homeland security up to the formation of the Department of Homeland Security. The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on the Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004. The official government report covering the September 11 terrorist attacks. Roebuck Jarrett, P., comp. The Department of Homeland Security: A Compilation of Government Documents Relating to Executive Reorganization. Buffalo, N.Y.: W. S. Hein, 2003. Compilation of main government documents concerning the reorganization of the executive branch of government. Also contains major government Web site addresses. White, Jonathan R. Terrorism: An Introduction. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Thompson Learning, 2002. A general introduction to terrorism.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Secret Service
September 11 terrorist attacks
U.S. Department of Transportation