Homeland Security: What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Local Homeland Security Organizational Structures?

William Mark Fitzpatrick



This thesis examines three different types of homeland security organizational structures currently being used in the Metro Atlanta, GA area and shows the advantages and disadvantages of each structure. The first structure is the law enforcement homeland security entity. This structure is based within a police department with most personnel consisting of police officers and is mainly centered on the prevention and response to terrorism. The second structure is the emergency management homeland security entity. The emphasis is on prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery to both natural and man-made incidents. The personnel in this structure are primarily civilians with an emergency management background whose main concern is the development of plans. Law enforcement is used in this structure on an as needed basis for their input and expertise. The third and final structure is the integrated law enforcement/emergency management homeland security entity. As the name suggests, this entity contains personnel from both the law enforcement and emergency management disciplines; however, they both work under the same leadership.

To answer the research question of “What are the advantages and disadvantages of different local homeland security organizational structures?” the following areas were analyzed.

  • The alignment of the organizational mission as compared to the federal mission for homeland security and emergency management. The federal mission for homeland security was based on the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Report. The federal mission for emergency management was based on the mission of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • The operational characteristics of each structure to include the duties, responsibilities, and functions executed by each entity.
  • Budget concerns and their effects on continuing to fund homeland security initiatives on the local level and the amount of federal grant funding used in this regard.

The method of this analysis revolves around case studies completed for each homeland security entity. Each case study looked at the mission of the entity, the operational duties of the entity and its budget as it pertains to the overall departmental budget along with the monies allocated to homeland security and grant funding. As to the homeland security mission, the missions of each homeland security entity were compared with the core missions of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR), which consist of 1) prevent terrorism and enhance security, 2) secure and manage this nation’s borders, 3) enforce and administer immigration laws, 4) safeguard and secure cyberspace, and 5) ensure resilience to disasters.[1]

For jurisdictions with an emergency management entity, their mission was compared to the mission statement of the FEMA, which states, “Emergency Management protects communities by coordinating and integrating all activities necessary to build, sustain, and improve the capability to mitigate against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from threatened or actual natural disasters, acts of terrorism, or other man-made disasters.”[2]

Operations were studied for each homeland security entity through their written policy and procedure documents, as well as information obtained from leaders and managers. The day-to-day operations of the entity are important to ensure the operational characteristics are in alignment with the federal mission so funding can be received through federal grants. Grant guidance can play a factor in whether a jurisdiction receives federal funding for its homeland security entity.

Lastly, the budgets for each homeland security entity were analyzed to ascertain the amount of money allocated to the overall departmental budget, the homeland security budget, and funds obtained from federal grants. The information was taken from available annual budget documents for the earliest year after 9/11 until the latest year available at the time of this analysis.

After looking at each homeland security organizational structure, a number of recommendations were made that could benefit each entity. These recommendations include: 1) provide experts for all five missions of the QHSR as part of homeland security personnel, 2) improve information sharing, 3) acquire closer relationships between local, state, and federal authorities, 4) improve protection for cyber infrastructure, and 5) develop a mission statement.

It is vitally important for each local jurisdiction to devise a homeland security structure that best fits its jurisdictions needs. The purpose of this thesis is to give local homeland security leaders and elected officials a better understanding of differing homeland security organizational structures so they can make an educated decision as to what may work best for their community.

[1] Department of Homeland Security, Quadrennial Homeland Security Report: A Strategic Framework for a Secure Homeland (Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security, 2014), 76–79.

[2] Wayne Blanchard, Guide to Emergency Management and Related Terms, Definitions, Concepts, Acronyms, Organizations, Programs, Guidance, Executive Orders, and Legislation, A Tutorial on Emergency Management, Broadly Defined, Past and Present (Washington, DC: FEMA, 2008), 344.

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