Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 7, 2014

The Constitution as homeland

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 7, 2014

This is the fifth in a series of anticipated posts closely reading the Constitution of the United States for homeland security implications. Readers are encouraged to use the comment function to add background, analysis, exegesis or exposition related to the text highlighted.



We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


Homeland Security and Defense have been quite purposefully — presidentially — conflated into National Security (sharing a snug four-seater with foreign affairs and intelligence).   Defense is usually behind the wheel.  State Department still claims the front seat.  Intelligence is an increasingly insistent back-seat driver.  As far as the others are concerned, HS will be kept in a baby seat for several more years.

I have never perceived this to be a conducive shared-space for homeland security.   Now almost a teenager, it has been overly influenced by the often testosterone-driven, passive-aggressive, paranoid tendencies of its cynically sophisticated older siblings.   HS would have been better served by a more self-reflective and independent childhood.

But this does not mean I can or want to deny the important relationship between the young Department of Homeland Security and the worldly Department of Defense.

The successes and failures of Defense — and State and the intelligence community — set the context for many of the most treacherous issues of homeland security (capitalized or not).  The terrorist threat is morphing and growing with the proliferation of failed and near-failed states.  The cyber-vandalism/criminal/terrorist threat grows even as we have at times chosen to be first-mover.  In a world growing more and more interdependent and accessible, we should all hope the common defense will be exercised with insight and effectiveness.

But as we consider what is happening today in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, Yemen, Sea of Japan, South China Sea, across much of Northern Mexico, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Mali, Nigeria… and elsewhere… we should also endeavor to ensure that homeland security grows up as wise, capable and quickly as it can.

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Comment by Donald Quixote

January 7, 2014 @ 9:45 am

As long as homeland security remains morphed into national security, and several other enterprises, as a policy and strategic concept, I wonder how well and effectively it shall grow and mature. Coordination and collaboration are critical, but I do not know if we truly need all these missions cobbled into one Frankenstein or Sybil-like entity. Maybe we can paint the proper international and domestic security picture, or lines in the road, with one unified color of the paints mixed into one bucket. It just sounds like a confining and ugly color, but it is a perfect match until fate calls for new hues.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 7, 2014 @ 11:48 am

Current organizational arrangements actually are undermining COMMON DEFENCE and/or COMMON DEFENSE IMO!

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 8, 2014 @ 9:06 am

Why DoD Secretaries never get what they want! See GATES new book!

Comment by Bruce Martin

January 8, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

An aspect of this national security construct IMO is that DOD, DOS, IC arguably can operate (in a silo-like fashion) looking off shore. That is, they can design organizational systems which involve federal (common) stakeholders without a lot of interaction with other levels of government back at home. There are exceptions, I know. An inherent DHS challenge is the interaction with states, tribes and locals in order to meet its mission. The federalist construct at home has numerous stakeholders and the resultant complexities.

Providing for the common defence at home looks much different than away from home. The strengths of the legacy NS agencies are developed and influenced by their history and context; HS will do the same. What lessons/behaviors/organizational culture will HS learn from DOD/DOS/IC? At the local level I see what I label as the development of a “HS-Industrial complex.” Will that bring smart practices, R & D capacity, and good things? Or will technology drive policy, models influence planning negatively, and narrow to limited/expensive choices? How DHS influences the system at home can have an impact. If DHS culture in turn evolves to look like the other NS agencies, it could be difficult maintaining domestic tranquility.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 11, 2014 @ 12:02 am

Great comment Bruce! Good analysis IMO! Thanks!

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