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Future Challenges to Homeland Security


Since the creation of The Department of Homeland Security, we have seen many challenges, changes, and growth. As we move forward in a society that is technology driven there will be continued growth to preventing terrorism, securing and managing our borders, enforcing and administering our immigration laws, safeguarding and securing cyberspace, and strengthening national preparedness and resilience.

Keywords: terrorism, cybersecurity, border patrol, FEMA, immigration, cyberterrorism, domestic terrorism, information sharing, private sector

The Department of Homeland Security has a vital role and mission of securing and protecting our nation from the many threats its faced with. Since the attacks of September 11th and the creation of Homeland Security, we’ve seen many changes in the department. DHS has become the largest reorganization of a government agency in more than a half century. (Coburn) Our proactive anti-terrorism measures with the conjunction of layered defense strategy the US has avoided a large attack from reoccurring. As we move forward the future of Homeland Security will continue to be a work in progress and will become dependent on the future of emergency management. The room for growth and changes will be required, as threats and hazards continue to evolve and change while addressing the all-hazard approach. (Johnson)

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An all-hazard approach I defined as a flexible approach that provides foundation to deal with natural and unnatural hazards and disasters. (Waugh) The Department of Homeland Security created mission areas in efforts to prevent and respond to attacks and natural disasters. These areas are to prevent terrorism, secure and manage our borders, enforce immigration laws, safeguard and secure cyberspace, and strengthen national preparedness and resilience. (Coburn)


The founding principle of the Department of Homeland Security is protecting the American people from terrorist threats and attacks like the Boston Marathon Bombing to future homegrown attacks like the Orlando nightclub shooting. Multiple terrorist organizations actively plotting attacks against the US or encouraging individuals to conduct inspired attacks. Preventing terrorism is the first mission and it will continue to be the cornerstone for DHS. The threat of terrorism still exists and has evolved into a stage that a new approach is needed. Currently DHS’s programs are to prevent chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear attacks have been yielding little value. While these areas are important the likelihood of it occurring are lower. (Coburn) The national security apparatus of the federal government must continue to guard against both large and small scales of terrorist directed attacks that present themselves. Our new approach must focus on how to prevent and detect terrorist inspired attacks from homegrown extremists before they happen.

Homegrown terrorism is an area of difficulty when detecting possible and future attacks. The use of the internet is the most effective tool these individuals are using to create connections, the call to follow the ideology, conduct copycat attacks, and learn deadly methods to use against citizens. Homegrown terrorist live among us, these are not individuals that are coming into our country from other western countries, some without any criminal history making it difficult to detect for law enforcement, and most of their planning occurs alone and in secret. (Johnson) Successful programs that have been created in the mist of terrorist attacks is the “see something say something program”, which has raised public awareness and information on how to report suspicious activity. Fighting terrorism is a national effort and citizens are going to sometimes witness or come across material on the internet that is considered harmful to our nation. By continuing to raise public awareness these individuals can assist the government fight the war on terrorism by reporting suspicious activity.

It’s also vital that propaganda production is eliminated, social media sites must reevaluate the terms and user agreement to avoid potential issues with the first amendment. A partnership with these private groups would assist in removing propaganda and recruitment efforts. DHS should also look into funding for “photo DNA” similar to scanning for child pornography would be useful for government officials. This would allow the government to successfully remove information while its being posted and shut down websites that promote violent extremism.

Terrorism warfare is changing, the use of armed drones in Syria against military forces is occurring and new technology is presenting itself. The possibility of this occurring in the US and other countries is possible and creating new safety procedures is needed. This is an area that must be evaluated drones are easily accessible and available all over the country, as a nation our air defense will take shape on how to tackle this potential threat. Small drones are filling our skies for recreational use and fears are growing of potential terrorist attacks and other crimes occurring. The FAA and congress have taken a slow approach in responding despite the growing concerns. With current regulations for commercial usage only, there will need to be stronger regulations and rules for drones even if they are grounded until better laws are created. (Bergen)

Immigration and Border Security

There is a lot of work to be done to secure our borders and fixing a system that many Americans believe to be broken. (Johnson) The Department of Homeland Security works diligently to protect our borders and safeguard our country from illegally activity. To this point there has been a lack of technology that Border Patrol utilizes, this is an area that must improve. DHS officials have claimed that the borders have been more secure than ever, even with significant evidence showing the vast span of southern and northern borders that remain uncontrolled and are vulnerable to illegal entry. The use of technology is not there, the inability to effectively use its technological assets, like drones and aerial surveillance equipment to monitor borders and assist personnel on the ground. Instead of actively using the technology we are re-seeing the use of national guard troops be redeployed under President Trump to assist border patrol agents. (Coburn)

DHS has worked towards and reformed immigration enforcement prioritizing the removal of illegals that pose a threat to our nation. The use of national guard troops at the border is nothing new and has been successful in the past with Operation Jump Start that assisted border patrol agents in detecting immigrants attempting to cross the border. Training between the two agencies would be beneficial and areas that border patrol is lacking can be taught from the DoD. This partnership and training would teach border patrol new tactics and proper usage of technology to assist securing the borders. Using a virtual fence with a series of sensor cameras that would detect unlawful movement and illegal intrusions, as well thermal imaging would assist agents capture illegal immigrants. The use of technology could greatly assist agents with 24/7 monitoring instead of foot patrols that are dangerous in the extreme heat.

The department has also struggled with administering the nation’s immigration system including vetting, processing, tracking immigration benefits for non-citizen, and monitoring individuals that are in the US on a visa. (Coburn) Either we must look into reforming and ending immigration benefit programs that pose vulnerable to criminal and national security threats. Utilizing biometrics such as face and voice recognistion could assist immigration officials with identifying and monitoring immigrants entering the US. Paper applications is in the past, we’ve become more mobile and technology is beneficial to keep track and put immigration needs to take the next stage while transforming immigration.


The large threat the US is faced with is the threat of cyberspace. We live in an interconnected world and are reliant on electronics. Threats are evolving and becoming more sophisticated in their attacks. Cyber threats will become more aggressive as information and communication technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate. Domestic terrorism threats, cyberattacks against the government and private networks have become a significant threat to the nation and the economy. Hacking is the most common form of cyber intrusion that can range from minimal damage to extensive damage to an individual and organization. The dangers posed by cyberattacks extends from critical infrastructures systems but to our economy. (Wise) As online threats continue to grow we much be able to secure the internet and the increasing numbers of internet connected devices and infrastructures, while preserving online data and protecting human rights. In order for this to be affective, strong partnerships from private sectors and other countries must continue. (Johnson)

Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and we all play a significant role especially when the private sector owns 85% of the critical infrastructure. (Wise) Empowering individuals and organizations to operate securely must be on the agenda. Similar to the see something say something program DHS should create a program on educating the public on safeguarding their information. Educating, partnering, and heightened law enforcement presence will assist government officials in deterring, investigating, and prosecuting criminals. DHS will continue to work with stakeholders in the homeland security for continued development and implementation on prioritizing activities, setting milestones, and tracking the progress of partners. (DHS.gov) Congress has made it clear that it will not force the private sector to share information with DHS, in which DHS will need to build partnerships and find ways to promote cooperation for shared information. Sharing information will help build a stronger cyber defense. (Wise) Cybersecurity will continue to be one of DHS’ greatest challenges in the coming years on protecting against cyberattacks and intrusions.

Emergency Response and Resilience

As a nation we must be prepared and ready to respond to severe natural disasters. The US is faced with the increasing risks of natural catastrophes related to climate change. Department of Homeland Security has grown since the disaster and refocusing on how to effectively response and communicate. (Waugh) The largest share of DHS budget goes to the Federal Emergent Management Agency (FEMA), in which is dedicated to strengthening national preparedness and resilience. While terrorism is still relevant the potential of casualties that could happen with a natural disaster is more likely to happen before another largescale terrorist attack.

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FEMA continues to have issues with how federal funding is spent and encouraging citizens to build and rebuild homes and businesses in flood Plaines offering citizens flood insurance programs. Recently FEMA announced reinsurance placement for the National Flood Insurance Program, reinsurance increases flood claims-paying ability by transferring potential losses to the private reinsurance markets. (FEMA.gov) DHS needs to hold companies responsible for building homes and businesses in flood Plaines where its vulnerable to disaster. By avoiding new developments in flooding zones, it would save money for consumers and prevent displacement of citizens.

Programs that provide subsidizing state and local emergency management and public safety for routine events need to be ended. Funding should be used for disaster response and preparation in the event of a large natural disaster. (Coburn) In 2011 in response to Irene and Lee, the balance of Disaster Relief Fund became so low that FEMA implemented immediate needs funding which meant state and local agencies stopped receiving federal dollars. (Donovan) Arguments of unlimited funding for FEMA could change the problem but is not realistic way of fixing spending issues. Better management and use of funds needs to be handled better in the future to ensure effective response to natural disasters.

The Department of Homeland Security has many opportunities and challenges presented in the future. Any organization of this size will have its issues and future challenges that must be addressed and fixed. The amount of growth and changes DHS has experienced has been positive in support the mission areas discussed. All of the mission areas are creating a series of different approaches in protecting our nation from vulnerabilities and disasters. In order to have continued success reevaluation of current processes and procedures is needed. What was once a threat after 9/11 no longer continues to be a large area of concern. With strong private-public partnerships, innovative ways to fight homegrown terrorism and cyber terrorism will strengthened Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security is expanding and maturing creating new technologies to keep up with future threats and technology advancements.

Work Cited

Bergen, Peter (February 28, 2017) The Future of Counterterrorism: Addressing the Evolving Threat to Domestic Security. Retrieved https://docs.house.gov/meetings/HM/HM05/20170228/105637/HHRG-115-HM05-Wstate-BergenP-20170228.pdf

Coburn, Tom (January 2015) A Review of the Department of Homeland Security’s Missions and Performance. Retrieved https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/canvas/sp18/21811—6277/content/16_lesson/images/DHS_Review_Coburn_Jan_2015.pdf

DHS.gov (November 2011) Blueprint for a Secure Cyber Future. Retrieved https://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/nppd/blueprint-for-a-secure-cyber-future.pdf

Donovan, Dan (February 28, 2017) The Future of FEMA: Recommendations of Former Administrators. Retrieved https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=800193

FEMA.gov (January 5, 2018) FEMA Expands its Reinsurance Program to Manage Future Flood Risk. Retrieved https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2018/01/05/fema-expands-its-reinsurance-program-manage-future-flood-risk

Johnson, Jeh (January 5,2017) DHS Record of Progress and Vision for the Future. Retrieved https://www.dhs.gov/archive/DHSInReview

Waugh, William (n.d.) The Future of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Retrieved https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1922787/modules/items/23804025

Wise, Rob (February 1, 2013) Homeland Security at a Crossroads: Evolving DHS to Meet the Next Generations of Threat. Retrieved https://www.csis.org/analysis/homeland-security-crossroads-evolving-dhs-meet-next-generation-threats


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