While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created on the 25th of November 2002 and officially began operations on the 24th of January 2003, with the appointment of Governor Tom Ridge (R-PA) as the first Secretary of Homeland Security, the Department of Homeland Security didn’t become the agency as we know it today until the 1st of March 2003.
For travelers the notion of the Department of Homeland Security was merely a concept, an agency that had no teeth until the 1st of March 2003.
On this date 10 years ago the consolidation of 22 agencies were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security. Among the agencies impacting travelers transferred to the DHS included the fledgling Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from the Department of Transportation; the Immigration and Naturalization Service from the Department of Justice; the U.S. Customs Service from the Department of Treasury; and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service … sort of but not really … from the Department of Agriculture.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is an oddball agency in regard to the DHS, as a number of APHIS agriculture border inspectors were transferred to the newly created U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection, under the Department of Homeland Security, but not all inspectors, while the APHIS itself remained under the authority of the Department of Agriculture.
With the consolidation of agencies being transferred to the DHS, some agencies were mix-and-matched, spawning new sub-agencies. The U.S. Customs Service, originally founded on the 31st of July 1789, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service were merged, spawning with three sub-agencies. The two combined agencies created U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcements, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Within the DHS, the Transportation Security Administration has taken on a life of its own. In 2002 the TSA’s budget was US$5.8-billion, now set at US$7.65-billion for the current year, with the agency seeking to expand its role in all areas of transportation.
Looking back of the past decade, with the DHS at the helm of transportation related security, it is clear that the supreme agency designed to streamline the security of our nation, and provide a single point of oversight, has simply become a sprawling agency that is disconnected internally, overseeing some agencies that are in dire need of oversight.
Interestingly, the Strategic National Stockpile National Disaster Medical System, which joined the DHS on The 1st of March 2013, was returned to the authority of Health and Human Services in July 2004.
At just ten years old the Department of Homeland Security is still in its infancy, overseeing agencies ranging from some of the oldest in the history of the United States to some of the youngest, so what we see before us now is an agency just finding its way. That said, the agency is in need of some guidance.