The Department of Homeland Security is a department of the federal government of the United States concerned with protecting the American homeland and the safety of American citizens. In was created partially in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The new department was established on November 25, 2002 and officially began operation on January 24, 2003. After months of discussion about employee rights and benefits and "rider" portions of the bill, Congress passed it shortly after the midterm elections, and it was signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush. It is intended to consolidate U.S. executive branch organizations related to "homeland security" into a single cabinet agency by 2004. The new Department is headed by former governor Tom Ridge.
This was called the largest government reorganization in 50 years (since the United States Department of Defense was created). The new department assumes a number of government functions previously in other departments. It supersedes, but does not replace the Office of Homeland Security, which retains an advisory role.
The Department of Homeland Security is organized into four divisions, incorporating many existing federal functions (original parent agency in parentheses):
Controversy about adoption centered on whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency should be incorporated in part or in whole. The bill itself was also controversial for the presence of unrelated riders, as well as eliminating some standard civil service and labor protections from employees of the department.
President Bush wanted the right to fire an employee within Homeland Security immediately for security reasons, for incompetence or insubordination. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle wanted an appeals process that could take up to 18 months or as little as one month.
On March 12, the Department of Homeland Security Advisory System was created as a Presidential Directive to provide a "comprehensive and effective means to disseminate information regarding the risk of terrorist acts to Federal, State, and local authorities and to the American people."