Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why is it called Homeland Security?

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 followed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, it set in motion a reevaluation of US security and national strategy that has yet to run its course.
By 1990 military critics were calling for major cuts to defense and the defense budget.  After Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, the new Defense Secretary, Les Aspin, set out to establish some analytical basis for the size and shape of the military with the “Bottom Up Review.” It proposed a military mix prepared to fight conflicts in “Two Major Theaters of War” (2MTW) simultaneously. This was followed by a National Security Strategy issued by President Clinton which focused on “Engagement and Enlargement [of democracy],” and drew heavily on a scaled down military to act as a means of engagement with governments and militaries around the world.
In 1996, a Republican Congress came to power, and asked whether sufficient military resources were being focused on a proper force structure, raised, trained and equipped to fight and win wars. A part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 was a requirement to conduct a public assessment that matched defense strategy against defense resources, starting in 1997 and every four years after that. The assessment was, and still is, called the Quadrennial Defense Review. Since the Department of Defense would essentially be evaluating itself, a group of outside defense experts was also formed, designated the National Defense Panel, and charged with issuing a report on the report.
Released in December of 1997, the report was called Transforming Defense-National Security in the 21st Century ( ). In one chapter, the panel looked back at the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and other terrorist events around the world, and concluded that the Department of Defense must be prepared for more and larger attacks against "our homeland.”
The report was actually something of a turning point in the debate on defense issues, as it also applied the term “Transformation” to DOD – thus contributing two concepts that have influenced the national security debate for more than 15 years.  But as it turned out, “homeland” is not a term that rolls off the American tongue, and it immediately prompted uncomfortable comparisons with “Fatherland,” and “Motherland,” and the worst aspects of national and international socialism. The term “Homeland Security” has subsequently been the source of angst and suspicion from people across the political spectrum.
I had the opportunity to interview staff authors of the report shortly after its release and asked “What were you thinking to use a term so foreign to American ears?”  Their answer was simple: “We were up against publication time, everybody knew what we meant, but nobody had a better term. So we used ‘homeland.’ We had no idea it would take on a life of its own.”
But it did.
Check Thinking Enemy again soon to see a recommendation for a different term that would better suit our national purpose.

This post is from the to-be-released book Connecting the Dots: A Primer on Homeland Security, by Dave McIntyre.

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