Fire

Taking on the terrorists: is US homeland security up to the task? Shortly after September 11, President Bush announced the creation of a new Government department, the Department of Homeland Security. But with over 170,000 employees from 22 agencies, will this provide an effective solution or will it become another expensive tier of bureaucracy with little or no influence? (Terrorism Preparedness).

A long with many defining moments in history the events of September 11, 2001 have become etched into people's memories and, indeed, the date itself has become an accepted method of shorthand reference for the series of unprecedented terrorist attacks that unfolded that day in Washington and New York.

For the press and the public, the immediate aftermath of the attacks was not a time for questions, criticism or rational debate. It was a time for hunting down those responsible and bringing them to justice and it was a time for partisan politics to be set aside for a united and firm national response. However, as time went by and the emotional impact of the events lessened, the media gradually returned to its role of questioning and debate.

Questions ranged across issues of strategic political policy, the effectiveness of governmental structures and the adequacy of operational activities at a tactical level. Was there adequate communication between government agencies? Why did so many firefighters die at the World Trade Center? More importantly, how well was the nation prepared should similar attacks occur again?

Regardless of the conjecture surrounding the attacks, a stark reality remained to be faced by the American Government. Firstly, the attacks represented a disastrous failure on behalf of the intelligence and security agencies, and secondly, it was abundantly clear that the emergency services were totally unprepared and ill equipped to deal with disasters of such a magnitude.

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

These two factors, coupled with apparent complacency and bureaucratic muddle, compounded the events of September 11, 2001. In June 2002, in an attempt to counter these apparent failings, President Bush proposed the creation of a new Government department, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This new department was hailed as the most significant transformation of the American Government in over 50 years and was aimed at realigning the confusing patchwork of Government activities into a single department whose primary mission was to protect the homeland. Prior to the attacks on September 11, 2001 the responsibilities for homeland security were dispersed amongst more than 150 different Government organisations. …

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