The Lesser Known Missions of Homeland Security

The mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is widely understood, "to safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values." However, in carrying out this mission, DHS touches a number of areas that may not seem intuitively tied to homeland defense but are nonetheless critical challenges facing the nation as well as agencies across government.

Artificial Intelligence

DHS has a key role in securing the homeland from cyber threats. The department's Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is the operational lead for federal cybersecurity and the national coordinator for critical infrastructure security and resilience. With this responsibility, CISA and other DHS agencies play a key role in shaping policy and guidance around emerging technology use. Today, they are keenly focused on helping agencies safely and ethically use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve mission effectiveness.

DHS is leading by example. AI is currently being used to aid border-patrol efforts, combat drug trafficking, and create age-progression estimations of missing children. While implementing AI itself, DHS is also focused on how adversaries may use AI and creating ways to defend against the technology being used to spread disinformation, create more advanced cyber attacks, or speed the development of weapons.

Citizen Service

From customs forms to immigration processes to emergency relief, DHS interacts with constituents in a number of high-stress and high-significance activities. The Department is working to reduce the paperwork and "time tax" burden on citizens. Over the last year, DHS has reduced the time the public spends accessing its services by over 21 million hours annually by streamlining and digitizing forms, auto-populating information, and more.

The department is now looking to reduce the time by another 10 million hours by prioritizing the needs of end users over the internal structures and systems. This work is being directed out of DHS's CX office, established in the fall of 2023, but they are not solely responsible for improving customer experience. CX professionals are being hired and placed in agencies across the department, and training is being delivered to wide swaths of the DHS employee population to introduce key CX concepts and tactics.

Climate Security

Severe weather events, fed by climate change, are having a huge impact on the security and safety of American citizens. Via the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), DHS is in a key position to respond to and mitigate climate disasters. An influx of funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the administration's Investing in America agenda has opened the door for new programs aimed at building the resilience needed to meet increasingly destructive weather threats.

To stay on top of the wide-reaching work of DHS, check out these resources.

  • Digital Transformation Summit 2024: Digital Government for ALL - Tackling Bias While We Transform Service to Citizens (February 22, 2024; Reston, VA) - The focus of this summit will be on where digital transformation is today and how we can accelerate the transition from existing legacy applications to new innovative technologies.
  • Federal AI Summit (February 29, 2024; Reston, VA) - With the frameworks outlined in the AI executive order, agencies have started implementing the guidance into their operational networks, swiftly integrating AI-focused strategies to enhance the resilience and effectiveness of their cybersecurity measures. Join top Federal leaders as they discuss the steps, they've taken to implement the AI guidance strategies and where they're headed in 2024.
  • Critical Infrastructure Protection & Resilience North America (March 12-14, 2024; Lake Charles, LA) - Leading stakeholders from industry, operators, agencies, and governments collaborate on securing North America. The conference works to create a better understanding of issues and threats to help develop frameworks, good risk management, strategic planning, and implementation.
  • 5th Annual Artificial Intelligence Summit (March 21, 2024; Falls Church, VA) - Federal leaders and industry experts converge to explore the transformative power of AI. Discover cutting-edge AI advancements, engage in dynamic discussions, and forge strategic collaborations with key partners at this annual gathering of the movers and shakers in the field of AI.
  • The Department of Homeland Security: A Primer (white paper) - Established in early 2003, DHS is the youngest cabinet-level department of the U.S. government and has a broad and complex mission. This report is intended to brief readers on the mission, structure, staffing, and funding of DHS.
  • Homeland Security Advisory Council: Artificial Intelligence - Mission Focused Subcommittee (white paper) - AI/ML technology has the potential to impact every part of DHS and its workforce. With proper guardrails in place and continual iteration to refine best practices, AI/ML technology will be a force multiplier for the Department.
  • Climate Change, Slow-Onset Disasters, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (white paper) - This paper highlights issues that FEMA may encounter when implementing the Stafford Act for slow-onset climate change events. Slow-onset disasters are not defined in the Stafford Act, FEMA regulations or guidance, or existing emergency or major disaster definitions.

For more on DHS priorities and activity explore additional events and resources on GovEvents and GovWhitePapers.

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