The term "Homeland Security" entered the American lexicon in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington. Those devastating attacks, planned and directed by a foreign terrorist organization, created the feeling that the United States was under attack and the American homeland needed to be better protected.
The US Department of Homeland Security, www.dhs.gov, was created by federal legislation passed in 2002. The mission of the new department is to prevent terrorism within the United States, reduce the nation's vulnerability to terrorism and minimize the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters.
The creation of DHS was the largest reorganization of the federal government since World War II, involving the transfer of all or parts of 22 federal agencies to the new department. The US Secret Service, US Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Customs Service, US Border Patrol and US Immigration and Naturalization Service were all transferred to DHS, along with facilities and personnel from the departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services and other entities.
The department is headed by a cabinet level secretary.
DHS is probably most visible to the average citizen at the airport, where employees of the Department’s newly created Transportation Security Agency inspect luggage and screen passengers. Other DHS activities, which are intended to improve cooperation and efficiency in the federal governments law enforcement and emergency response capabilities, are not so readily discernable.
The US Department of Homeland Security interacts with state and local governments in many ways. Urgent information on homeland security issues affecting New Hampshire is relayed through the state's Homeland Security Point of Contact, who is the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The Director serves as the Governor's Homeland Security Advisor and works with the Governor's office and other top state officials to ensure that appropriate, immediate action is taken in the event of any security threat to New Hampshire.
Another important relationship between the federal DHS and the state is in the distribution of grant money to local first responders and state agencies.
Since 2003, New Hampshire has received nearly $86 million in Homeland Security grants for equipment and training. By law, 80 percent of this amount went to local first responders.
Anyone with questions on homeland security in New Hampshire may contact the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. As always, anyone witnessing a crime or seeing suspicious activity should call local police at 911.
Additional information on Homeland Security can be found at the following locations:
Fire Standards and Training and Emergency Medical Services
Homeland Security Grants