Federal bureaucrats must believe Humpty Dumpty thought too small when he said a word "means just what I choose it to mean," since they've gone bigger with the phrase, "homeland security." At least, that's what the Congressional Research Service found when it went to assess just what the various and sundry government agencies that have been assigned, or taken upon themselves, the responsibility for defending and upholding just that mean when they throw the words around. The definition of "homeland security," it appears, is in the eye of the beholder.
The CRS author, Shawn Reese, is too diplomatic — and career-minded — to phrase it that way, of course. In the report, Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and Congressional Considerations (PDF), which has been made available by Secrecy News, he points to the causes of apparent mission creep in the booming homeland security sort-of industry:
The proliferation of responsibilities entitled "homeland security activities" is due to a couple of factors. One factor is that homeland security developed from the pre-9/11 concept of law enforcement and emergency management. Another factor is the continuously evolving definition of "homeland security." Some degree of evolution of the homeland security concept is expected. Policymakers respond to events and crises like terrorist attacks and natural disasters by using and adjusting strategies, plans, and operations. These strategies, plans, and operations also evolve to reflect changing priorities. The definition of homeland security evolves in accordance with the evolution of these strategies, plans, and operations.
There is a downside to all of this continuing evolution, of course, specifically, "[v]aried homeland security definitions and missions may impede the development of a coherent national homeland security strategy, and may hamper the effectiveness of congressional oversight."
The CRS report goes on to point out that some agencies' definitions of "homeland security" encompass natural disasters, while others include borders and immigration, and maritime stuff gets stuck in there, too. Why such a mishmash of issues? Well, as the CRS suggests in a none-too-subtle hint, the various shoehorned topics all "call for substantial funding." The result, the report suggests, is that "[t]he competing and varied definitions in these documents may indicate that there is no succinct homeland security concept."
Confusion reigns amongst federal bureaucrats? You don't say!
The report's breakdown of various official "homeland security" definitions can be seen below.