Please note, this write up was written when the Department of Homeland Security was still just an office. I've taken note of the change and I will fix this write up to reflect the current situation as soon as I can manage some free time.

The Office of Homeland Security was established by executive order on October 7, 2001, by the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush.

The idea to found a National Homeland Security Agency was first proposed in House Resolution 1158 that was introduced on March 21, 2001, but it was not deemed a high priority at the time and it remained in committee. With the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, however, President Bush was convinced that such an Office was needed immediately. Bush appointed former republican governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge to be the Secretary of the Office of Homeland Security.

Despite being a Cabinet-level position, the director of the Office of Homeland Security will not need Senate confirmation and the office will be based within the White House, giving the secretary unprecedented access to the president. The secretary would serve as an assistant to the President, not as an agency chief.

The new Office is a sort of super-agency that must coordinate and streamline the activities of federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities. A variety of agencies have been brought under the Office’s wide umbrella, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service(INS), the Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Agency(DEA), the Customs Service, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Department of Defense, the National Guard, the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI), the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA), the government’s intelligence community, as well as others. The new Office will hope to bring and end to agency rivalries and turf battles that have often kept one part of the government ignorant about the activities of other departments, creating vulnerabilities that terrorists can exploit.

The Office’s primary mission will be to walk the fine line between achieving greater security at home while at the same time preserving the civil liberties guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. In his address to a joint session of congress on September 20, 2001, Bush stated that the Office’s mission was to, “lead, oversee, and coordinate a national strategy to safeguard our country against terrorism and respond to any attacks that come.”

The very creation of the Office of Homeland Security has caused a great deal of controversy. There are some that believe that Bush is taking advantage of the September 11, 2001 attacks to consolidate presidential power. Others fear that the new Office will intentionally or incidentally erode civil liberties in the name of security. What role the Office of Homeland Security will play now and how it may evolve in the future is yet to be seen.