What Are the Issues Facing the Department of Homeland Security?

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Category: Industry Insights

By Matt Rowley
Posted on

Working for the Department of Homeland Security offers a way to serve your fellow citizens and protect your nation from the many dangers at home and abroad. An important part of any DHS career is understanding and actively following the everchanging issues in the field.

In this article, we explore several of the most important issues currently facing the Department of Homeland Security.

Countering Terrorism

The Department of Homeland Security was created as a direct result of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and countering terrorist activities continues to be an important priority. In a 2020 report by the Office of the Inspector General, terrorism was identified as one of the six most serious challenges facing the DHS.

The Department of Homeland Security informs the American public about current threats through the National Terrorism Advisory System. Recent NTAS advisories include details about threats such as:

  • Violent extremist organizations tied to foreign nations posing a threat to American citizens overseas.
  • Ideologically motivated individuals sharing false narratives and conspiracy theories online with the intent to incite violence.
  • Violent extremists targeting individuals participating in protests with opposing views.

DHS officials are continuing to work with the FBI and other industry partners to identify and respond to such threats, which come from a variety of sources.

IT and Cybersecurity Staff and Solutions

Cybercrime ebbs and flows as criminals frequently change their methods and cybersecurity professionals respond with their own new prevention tactics. As shown by the ransomware attack against Colonial Pipeline in 2021, cyberattacks can be incredibly disruptive to the nation’s critical infrastructure. Government agencies have plenty of competition when looking for qualified cybersecurity professionals, as there are reports of shortages of skilled workers across the globe.

In addition to protecting government systems from cybercrime, the Office of the Inspector General also identified the overall use of information technology – and ensuring it can support essential operations – as a challenge facing the DHS. For large organizations like the DHS, managing IT and finding ways for disparate systems to work together can be a complicated task; doing so while supporting government operations means that the stakes can be even higher and the consequences more widespread.

Border Security

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is one of the many operational and support components of the DHS. The Border Patrol’s mission is to prevent terrorist travel, drug smuggling and human trafficking at our borders.

In addition, CBP reported that encounters at the southern border started rising in April 2020, and in March 2021, more than 172,000 individuals attempted to enter through the southern border, a 71% increase over the previous month. Border Patrol officials are continuing to work to eliminate terrorist travel, drug smuggling and other illegal activities, but the increase in border encounters is making that job more complex.

Related: Protecting U.S. Borders Using Cybersecurity

Natural Disaster Planning and Response

Homeland security is often associated with protecting our borders and fighting terrorism, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency also falls under the DHS. The Office of Inspector General identified many areas for improvement for FEMA in their 2020 report, including the management of disaster relief grants and weaknesses in the supply chain and tracking supply distribution.

Related: Emerging Issues in Emergency Management


If you’re considering a career in which you work to protect our nation against terrorism, cybercrime, human trafficking, natural disasters and more, academic degrees in homeland security offer unique benefits.

At Columbia Southern University, we’re proud to work with students and alumni who are active professionals in many types of public service, including those working in homeland security. We offer online degrees in homeland security at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels, as well as a bachelor’s degree in information systems and cybersecurity with a homeland security concentration.

For more information about our online degree programs in homeland security, visit our website.

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