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DHS at 20: Celebrating a Legacy of Service

DHS at 20: Celebrating a Legacy of Service

The threats to our homeland have evolved over the 20 years of DHS. One constant is the legacy of service of our workforce. They’ve delivered results for America every day since 2003 and continue to contribute to a safer tomorrow for all Americans.

Following the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush established DHS by signing the Homeland Security Act of 2002. On March 1, 2003, 22 agencies unified under a single department with a common mission: to safeguard the American people. The youngest but third largest cabinet department, DHS’s mission spans across terrorism prevention, law enforcement, border and maritime security, immigration services, transportation security, emergency response and recovery, protective services, cybersecurity, and more.

DHS 20

Over the past 20 years, the threat landscape has evolved. While we continue to face the threat of international terrorism, new threats and challenges have emerged, including increasing incidents of targeted violence, cyberattacks and several natural disasters, as well as the unprecedented level of migration in our hemisphere. The 260,000-strong DHS workforce uses its skills and expertise to meet the challenges of today’s world and prepare for the threats of tomorrow, responding with new programs and capabilities, cross-component collaboration, and unflinching dedication to the mission.

Today, DHS spans over two dozen agencies and offices that work collaboratively to protect the American public in the air by securing air travel; on land by securing the border, responding to natural disasters, protecting critical infrastructure, and administering our nation’s legal immigration system; at sea by protecting our coastline and waterways; and in cyberspace by bolstering America’s cyber defense and investigating cybercrime. To learn more, visit: https://www.DHS.gov/TodayDHSWill.

As the threats have evolved over the last 20 years, DHS remains committed to safeguarding the American people, our homeland, and our values. The world today is more interconnected than at any time in history, which creates new challenges for the security of the American people. DHS remains focused on preventing acts of foreign terrorism, but the Department is also now on the frontlines of many new challenges facing the American people, from ransomware attacks to domestic violent extremism to climate change. The historical distinction between homeland security and national security challenges has become one and the same and the role of DHS has grown accordingly.

The more than 22 agencies and offices that comprise DHS are on the frontlines of the most pressing challenges facing our security. Rapidly emerging technologies, evolving cyber capabilities, and increasing economic and political instability around the world are contributing to a heightened threat environment at home.

  • Foreign adversaries are waging new kinds of war, no longer constrained by physical borders or military maneuvers. They do so through trade and investment flows; through the rapidly evolving technologies that connect us; and through information spread around the world by the click of a mouse.
  • Non-state actors are also exploiting the openness that defines our modern world. Advancing in capability and sophistication, cybercriminals target critical infrastructure to wreak havoc on daily lives. They exploit the integrated global cyber ecosystem to sow discord, undermine democracy, and erode trust in our institutions, public and private. Ransomware attacks, for example, are fast increasing.
  • Fast-emerging technologies like unmanned aerial systems, artificial intelligence, internet communications, and cryptocurrencies are creating new dynamics in society. They also are introducing new risks. Transnational criminal organizations are deploying these technologies to commit a wide array of crimes as they continue to grow in size, scale, sophistication, and lethality.
  • The risk of targeted violence, perpetrated by actors abroad and at home, is substantial. Emerging technology platforms allow individuals and nation states to fan the flames of hate and personal grievances to large audiences and are encouraging people to commit violent acts.

After 9/11, joining the DHS workforce was a way for many Americans to answer a call to service to help ensure a safe and secure future for our country. Over 32,000 people, or 12% of the DHS workforce, are “plank holders” who have served the Department since its inception in 2003. This dedication to mission is at the heart of all we do in the Department every day — our workforce’s legacy of service will ensure we accomplish our mission for the next 20 years and beyond.

  • DHS is the third largest workforce of any federal department, behind the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • The Department is home to more than 92,000 sworn law enforcement officers, the greatest number of law enforcement officers in the federal government. DHS committed to increasing the representation of newly-hired women in law enforcement or related occupations at DHS to 30% by 2023.
  • Over 54,000 veterans, or nearly 21% of the workforce, continue serving their country by working at DHS.
  • DHS operational components interact more frequently on a daily basis with the American public than any other federal department, from travelers moving through air, land, and seaports of entry, to businesses importing goods into the country, to immigrants applying for services.
  • DHS in 2022 launched a hiring initiative recruiting hundreds of experts in digital user experience and design for the Customer Experience Program who have already worked to improve the overall experience for those accessing government services and benefits by accepting mobile driver’s licenses, reducing processing times for immigration benefits, and simplifying FEMA policies when applying for assistance.

Launch of the Homeland Security Information Network (February 2004)

This trusted and secure platform was created to share information and enable real-time collaboration between State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial partners to protect the United States from adversarial threats, facilitate coordinated responses to natural disasters, and help law enforcement secure the nation's borders. DHS in 2022 added to the network by creating the DHS Intel app that allows real-time mobile access to intelligence information. 

Implementation of the Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act (August 2007)

President George W. Bush signed the Act which established the Homeland Security Grant Programs, authorized the creation of fusion centers, modernized the Visa Waiver Program, and established the National Biosurveillance Integration Center. Since DHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took over administration of the Homeland Security Grant Programs in fiscal year (FY) 2008, DHS has awarded more than $18 billion in preparedness dollars to communities across the country. 

Opening of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (July 2008)

DHS opens the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-led (ICE) National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. The move co-located, for the first time, the regulators and law enforcement agencies working to stop the theft of intellectual property and the importation of counterfeit, substandard, and tainted products. 

Implementation of Secure Flight (January 2009)

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) begins implementing Secure Flight, a risk-based passenger prescreening program that enhances security by identifying low and high-risk passengers before they arrive at the airport by matching information of all travelers against trusted traveler lists and other government watch lists. Secure Flight was developed by DHS in response to a key 9/11 Commission Recommendation that watch list matching should be performed by TSA. Prior to the implementation of Secure Flight, airlines were responsible for matching passenger information against the Terrorist Screening Database watch list. 

Launch of “If You See Something, Say Something” awareness campaign and Blue Campaign to combat human trafficking (July 2010)

DHS launched two national awareness campaigns to encourage the public to report suspicious activity to stop terrorist threats and to educate the public on human trafficking, respectively. Both campaigns have appeared on billboards, in sporting arenas, and in public spaces for more than a decade. 

Launch of the National Terrorism Advisory System (April 2011)

Secretary Janet Napolitano implemented the new National Terrorism Advisory System, which replaced the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System to provide the public with details about imminent threats and the threat landscape. 

Launch of TSA PreCheck (December 2011)

TSA initiated a Trusted Traveler Program called TSA PreCheck which allowed vetted members of the public to receive expedited screening at select airports nationwide. TSA first offered the program at the Las Vegas International Airport and today has more than 14 million members. 

Creation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (June 2012)

President Barack Obama announced the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has since granted DACA benefits to more than 800,000 applicants, making it one of the most significant policies implemented during the agency’s first 20 years. DACA has transformed the lives of Dreamers and our nation has been enriched by young people who have contributed so much to the communities and this country they know as their home. 

Establishment of the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (December 2017)

The DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office was authorized by Congress to elevate, consolidate, and streamline the DHS efforts to protect the homeland from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats. 

Establishment of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (November 2018)

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Act created America’s Cyber Defense Agency to work across the public and private sectors to challenge traditional ways of doing business and engaging with government and private sectors. 

Combatting Terrorism and Targeted Violence (Early 2021)

Secretary Mayorkas designated domestic violent extremism as a “National Priority Area” for homeland security grant programs (February 2021), stood up a domestic terrorism unit in DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and established the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) to combat terrorism and targeted violence (May 2021).

Establishment of 2,300 Vaccination Centers Nationwide (Early 2021)

FEMA and other federal partners stood up a nationwide network of mobile vaccination units, pop-up sites, and community vaccination centers that contributed to more than 6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses being administered within the first few months of 2021.

Launch of Operation Allies Welcome (August 2021)

President Biden directed DHS to lead federal efforts to support Afghan nationals as they arrived and resettled in the United States. More than 88,500 Afghan nationals were welcomed as a result of this effort.

Launch of the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (August 2021)

CISA launched a communication channel that brings together the federal government and the private sector’s top network defenders to distill and disseminate insights for the entire cybersecurity community.

First Increase in Border Patrol Agents Since 2011 (December 2022)

The FY 2023 budget allows DHS to hire 300 additional Border Patrol Agents, which will be the first increase since 2011. DHS added over 3,000 processing personnel to the Southwest border, helping return Border Patrol Agents to the field. By adding processing personnel, implementing facilities improvements, and digitizing files and procedures, DHS reduced the time noncitizens spend in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody by over 30%. CBP now has 23,000 Agents and Officers working along the Southwest border.

Unprecedented Efforts to Stop Fentanyl (2021-2022)

In the last two fiscal years, FY 2021 and 2022, DHS seized more fentanyl and arrested more criminals for committing crimes related to fentanyl and precursors chemicals than in the previous five years combined. In addition to historic investments in non-intrusive inspection technology to be deployed at ports of entry, DHS has stood up investigations to prosecute the Chinese chemical companies and their brokers providing precursors to the Mexican cartels behind the drastic rise in fentanyl production. We also prioritized stopping the flow of fentanyl with our Transnational Criminal Investigative Units in Mexico who are vetted foreign law enforcement partners tracking, disrupting, and prosecuting the cartel members involved in the production and smuggling of fentanyl into the United States. For the first time, DHS has combined a variety of datasets related to fentanyl to target the fentanyl supply chain including precursor chemicals, pill presses, die molds, and the logistics and distribution networks of the cartels. DHS has also stood up multiple investigations to target the cartels’ money laundering operations and prevent ill-gotten proceeds from fentanyl from making it back to their coffers.

DHS Designated to Lead Federal Response for Domestic Preparedness related to Ukraine Invasion (February 2022)

DHS responded to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by launching the “Shields Up” campaign to enable every organization —large and small— to protect against and respond to disruptive cyber incidents that could result from the U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. CISA hosted or participated in engagements reaching tens of thousands of partners and the Shields Up webpage has been visited hundreds of thousands of times.  DHS also launched Uniting for Ukraine, a program provides a pathway for Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members to enter the U.S. and stay in a two-year period of humanitarian parole. More than 116,000 Ukrainians have arrived through the program and in total, more than 275,000 have Ukrainians have arrived in the United States since March of 2022.

Launch of the Cyber Safety Review Board (February 2022)

The Cyber Safety Review Board is an unprecedented public-private initiative that brings together government and industry leaders to conduct authoritative fact-finding and to issue recommendations in the wake of significant cybersecurity incidents.

Expansion of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (March 2022)

The Department distributed $250 million in the Nonprofit Security Grant program, a $70 million increase in funding over the prior year. The grants help at-risk organizations prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks and targeted violence. New funding was focused particularly on high-risk faith-based institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and LGBTQI+ non-profit organizations. The FY 2023 budget further increased funding to $305 million.

Launch of the Forced Labor Prevention Strategy (June 2022)

DHS implemented the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, stood up the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force, and released the “Strategy to Prevent the Importation of Goods Mined, Produced, Or Manufactured With Forced Labor in the People’s Republic of China.”

Launch of a Cross Government Anti-Smuggling Campaign (October 2022)

The Department launched a $60 million campaign to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling networks that led to the arrests of over 6,400 smugglers and the disruption of over 6,700 smuggling operations. This unprecedented initiative is part of a first-of-its kind Human Smuggling Task Force, in collaboration with regional partners, which surged over 1,300 personnel in Latin America and along the Southwest border.

Reunited Over 600 Children with their Families (February 2023)

Through its leadership of the Family Reunification Task Force, DHS reunited more than 600 children with their families who were unjustly separated under the prior administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy. This effort continues to reach and reunite more families.

DHS at 20: Celebrating a Legacy of Service

On Wednesday, March 1, 2023, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas hosted an event celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security. The event featured performances and special guests, including President Biden, who reflected upon the Department’s 20 years of protecting America.

Running time: 1:07:07

DHS 20th Anniversary Ceremony Highlights

Highlights from the event celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security.  The event, hosted by Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, featured performances and special guests, including President Biden, who reflected upon the Department’s 20 years of protecting America.

Running time: 0:01:49

9/11 Flag Unveiling Ceremony

On March 1, 2023, Secretary Mayorkas also unveiled a ceremonial American flag that had been presented to him by members of the New York City Police Department Counterterrorism Bureau following the 20th commemoration of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Over the past 14 months, it has been flown by 27 different agencies and offices in 36 different locations across the country and around the world. The new permanent flag display was placed in the St. Elizabeths ceremonial entrance. It stands as a symbol of resilience, resolve, and our everlasting memory of those whom we lost on and as a result of 9/11.

Running time: 0:01:46

DHS at 20: A Safer, More Secure America

On its 20-year anniversary, the Department of Homeland Security celebrates the DHS workforce’s contributions to a safer, more secure America.

Running time: 0:03:24

DHS at 20: Who We Are

See how the events of September 11th, 2001 shaped the lives of those who joined the Department of Homeland Security at its inception and how the mission of DHS protects America today.

Running time: 0:06:47

Twenty years ago, on March 1, 2003, DHS first opened its doors: reorganizing dozens of agencies and offices, aligning hundreds of thousands of employees, and setting forth to accomplish our critical mission. To help commemorate this 20th anniversary milestone in the history of our Department and our nation, the DHS Office of Public Affairs has prepared a number of logos and treatments for use by DHS components, directorates, offices, and programs.

These logos are for official U.S. government use only. Unauthorized use of the DHS seals, wordmarks, and logos below is strictly prohibited. 

If you are a DHS partner organization, state/local government, nonprofit organization – or any other entity that is not a DHS component, directorate, office, or program -- and would like to use the assets below, please contact the Office of Public Affairs at (202) 282-8010, or you can e-mail branding@hq.dhs.gov. Learn more about the use of the Department of Homeland Security seal.

Last Updated: 03/21/2024
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