from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2013, Issue No. 5
January 9, 2013

Secrecy News Blog:


The existence of multiple, overlapping and inconsistent definitions of the term "homeland security" reflects and reinforces confusion in the homeland security mission, according to a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service.

"Ten years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. government does not have a single definition for 'homeland security.' [Instead,] different strategic documents and mission statements offer varying missions that are derived from different homeland security definitions."

Most official definitions of homeland security include terrorism prevention. Many but not all encompass disaster response. Most do not include border security, or maritime security, or immigration matters, or general resilience, though some do.

"An absence of consensus about the inclusion of these policy areas may result in unintended consequences for national homeland security operations," the CRS report said. "For example, not including maritime security in the homeland security definition may result in policymakers, Congress, and stakeholders not adequately addressing maritime homeland security threats, or more specifically being able to prioritize federal investments in border versus intelligence activities."

"The competing and varied definitions in these documents may indicate that there is no succinct homeland security concept. Without a succinct homeland security concept, policymakers and entities with homeland security responsibilities may not successfully coordinate or focus on the highest prioritized or most necessary activities."

"At the national level, there does not appear to be an attempt to align definitions and missions among disparate federal entities," CRS said.

Without a uniform definition, a coherent strategy cannot be formulated and homeland security policy is rudderless. "Potentially, funding is driving priorities rather than priorities driving the funding."

Speaking of funding, there are thirty federal departments, agencies, and entities receiving annual homeland security funding excluding the Department of Homeland Security, the CRS report said. In fact, approximately 50% of homeland security funding is appropriated for agencies other than the Department of Homeland Security.

See "Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and Congressional Considerations," January 8, 2013:


New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made available to the public include the following.

Desalination and Membrane Technologies: Federal Research and Adoption Issues, January 8, 2013:

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting: Federal Funding and Issues, January 8, 2013:

DNA Testing in Criminal Justice: Background, Current Law, Grants, and Issues, December 6, 2012:

Environmental Considerations in Federal Procurement: An Overview of the Legal Authorities and Their Implementation, January 7, 2013:

Responsibility Determinations Under the Federal Acquisition Regulation: Legal Standards and Procedures, January 4, 2013:

Social Security: The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), January 8, 2013:

Social Security: The Government Pension Offset (GPO), January 8, 2013:

Economic Growth and the Unemployment Rate, January 7, 2013:

Overview and Issues for Implementation of the Federal Cloud Computing Initiative: Implications for Federal Information Technology Reform Management, January 4, 2013:

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA): Issues for the 113th Congress, January 3, 2013:

Military Medical Care: Questions and Answers, January 7, 2013:

Israel: 2013 Elections Preview, January 8, 2013:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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