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On the other hand, the Department in itself was projected to deal with a large number of aspects surrounding homeland security. The arguments supporting the idea were focused on the principle that the citizens must be protected from foreign threats, such as terrorism, and they must be given the help needed to face the treacheries of nature. In aiming to accomplish the latter, the Federal Emergency Management Directorate was established. Even if it somewhat enables smoother and more effective assistance in case of natural disasters, it merely coordinates the efforts and it does not replace the actions taken at local or state level. Therefore, the decisions taken in crisis situations must pass yet another test and must receive approval from yet another decision making body before action is taken in the areas affected by floods or other natural catastrophes. A similar fact can be presented even in the case of the DHS as a whole.
Ashton Carter points out that, aside from creating a single agency with new independent structures, that would not rely on other governmental support, the DHS has little other merits. Even more, its existence, according to Carter, is slowing down the decision making process, as "the problem of interagency coordination would not be eliminated but only complicated by the introduction of this new agency. Aggregating functions such as customs, immigration, border patrol, and coast guard into the new agency might be efficient, but it can hardly be said that this entity should have the lead in homeland defense or that its creation eliminates the inherently interagency nature of responding to catastrophic terrorism." (Carter, n.d.) Therefore, the department, it can be argued, has had limited success in delivering on its promises from the Strategic Plan.
Most importantly however, the DHS, and especially FEMA, are faced with a lack of autonomous resources that could be dispatched without endangering the services in other sectors. In the case of an attack with WMD that would inevitably result in mass casualties, seeing that there are scarce medical resources, these would have to be sent in different locations that would need their intervention.
In such instances, there are several questions arising. On the one hand, there is the matter of assessing the level of gravity in each situation and of giving priority to only the truly serious ones, leaving others without any help. On the other hand, even in the eventuality of insuring discriminatory assistance to those in need, there would not be enough resources. Joseph, Macintyre and DeAtley argue that indeed the medical system is somewhat flawed and that "incorrect assumptions are being made about existing medical capabilities to treat mass casualties. In reality, hospital surge capacity and specialized medical capability across the United States has never been more restricted. While the public and the political communities assume that the healthcare systems are adequately preparing for terrorism incidents that would generate catastrophic casualty loads, the medical community is struggling just to maintain its everyday capacity." (Joseph, Macintyre & DeAtley, 2001) Thus, even if there are the specifications that would allow the deployment of rescue personnel in different emergencies, the reality on the ground cannot cover those necessities. Given these fact, any legal procedures demanding for these resources have little relevance for the resolution of the emergencies.
One of the most important factors that determined the creation of the DHS was the eventuality of new terrorist attacks, similar to those of 2001. Consequently, the Homeland Security Act focuses expressly on the issue of protecting the land and its citizens from any possible threats. Aside from these declarative ideas, measure have been taken to insure that stricter rules at the borders are respected, immigration laws were drastically adjusted, while overall control of citizens and businesses has increased. All these measures however, tend to enter in conflict with some of the core values of the American democracy, which have inspired along the years the democratic constitutions of numerous countries. Firstly, the measures taken in order to secure the borders, both those on land and at sea, tend to infringe the freedom of movement, or at least slow it down. Secondly, in relation to immigrants, stricter control would, on the one hand, prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country, but, on the other hand, cause distress and discomfort for those foreign travelers subject to scrutiny by immigration officers. This is obvious in their behavior especially taking into consideration that even the employees at the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement have become more suspicious and more sensitive to any aspect out of the ordinary. Therefore, it can be that too little attention to certain information have caused the failure of the Secret Services to prevent the 911 attacks, but, at the same time, too much control over the civil life of the citizens can as well become a threat to the integrity and democratic freedoms the U.S. stands for.
Despite any eventual discomfort the authorities may cause, the issue of terrorism is a matter of national security indeed. The U.S., through its aggressive policy towards undemocratic regimes, has created for itself and its citizens numerous enemies that have little regard for the human life, as they consider death to be a privilege and an honor, especially when this occurs in the struggle against Western oppressors. Taking this into consideration, and the imminent threats posed by authoritarian regimes such as the Iranian or the North Korean one, it is only natural that action be taken in order to prevent a replay of the 9/11 events. This however cannot be achieved outside well-coordinated structures, which can offer both logistical support and financial aid for undergoing the necessary activities to prevent any tragedy. Therefore, taking into account the massive casualties of 911, the emotional impact and the political significance, I personally believe that terrorism has become the greatest threat to the national as well as homeland security. Concerning the national security, military capabilities are best suited to address it, while the latter demands a more profound and complex response, which would enable a consistent cooperation between all the sectors of the executive, as well as engaging private partners and the civil society.
The main impulse in creating a strategy for preventing disasters of any kind, be them human induced or natural ones, must come from the authorities. They represent the legitimate face of power and therefore have the symbolic ability to promote ideas and courses of action. The level at which these ideas come from and the decisions are taken can depend of the scope of the respective issues. For instance, certain general guidelines in respect to policy lines would enter in the attribution of the federal government to give. However, it should be up to the state and local authorities to implement them or to give them legislative support. Thus, there would be decentralization at the level of emergency management, a practice that would enable each region to adapt its own local characteristics to the general guidelines and thus better serve the interests of the community. Taking the example of the immigration policy, in order to address properly the issue in areas that are confronted with immigration related problems, special attention and assistance must be given to these areas in such a way as to satisfy a large part of the issues arising at local level.
Another example would be the National Flood Insurance Program, administered by FEMA. There are certain areas that experience regular flooding around the country. These should receive a preferential treatment and the respective program should be personalized as to cater for the needs of the population affected annually. Moreover, given the fact that the DHS is also responsible for information gathering and analysis, different reports on the means through which the condition of those areas affected by floods could be improved should become a priority. Establishing the general ideas at federal level, and letting the state and local authorities to implement and make the best of the funding at their disposal can prove to be a solution for resolving the authority issue that are a frequent subject for debate in relation to these issues.
The decentralization however may have its downsides as well. One of them is the fact that in certain cases, the decisions taken at the highest level are not fully set in action and most often, the funds are misused. This is why there have been voices arguing against such a split of responsibilities. Nonetheless, despite possible failures, managing and taking decisions close to those who would eventually suffer their consequences may be more rewarding than the alternative.
Overall, it can be concluded that homeland security has indeed become an important if not essential issue of both the public's and the politicians' agenda. The 911 events have made people aware of the necessity to improve common actions and to develop a secure and efficient system of communication among all…[continue]
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