Reform, Don't Merge, the Homeland Security Council

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A growing number of scholars argue that the new administration should overturn a key decision by President George W. Bush administration’s decision in 2002 to create a Homeland Security Council (HSC). Until the September 11 attacks, the National Security Council (NSC) coordinated the handful of institutions, (including the Department of Defense) that protected the United States from its adversaries. Bush responded to al Qaeda’s attacks by organizing a sprawling parallel system of institutions to protect the United States from terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is only part of that system. The Bush administration also assigned terrorism prevention functions to the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Health and Human Services, Interior, and other federal institutions which had never before played such significant roles in securing the United States from attack. Bush capped this parallel security system with the HSC to help guide and coordinate its activities.

A spate of recent studies argue that creating the HSC was a mistake and that the new administration should subsume the Council within the NSC. Such a merger, however, would impede the reforms that are most vital for securing the United States against future terrorist attacks and hurricanes or other natural hazards.

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