What is the US Secretary of Homeland Security?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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The United States Secretary of Homeland Security is the head of the Department of Homeland Security, an American government agency responsible for domestic security in the United States. This agency was created in 2003 in response to concerns about terrorism, and is largely comprised of departments taken from other government agencies and united under the Homeland Security banner. Some critics have suggested that the powers of the Department of Homeland Security are too far-reaching, and that the agency is mired in bureaucracy and systematic violations of constitutional rights.

This agency is a Cabinet level department, and the third largest Cabinet department, after the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. As a member of the Presidential Cabinet, the US Secretary of Homeland Security must be confirmed in a Senate hearing before taking office. This position ranks last in the Presidential line of succession, due to the convention which ranks Cabinet members in the order that their departments were established. As with other members of the Presidential Cabinet, the US Secretary of Homeland Security is expected to resign when a new President takes office.


The primary goal of the Department of Homeland Security is protection of American citizens and the American homeland on the domestic level. The US Secretary of Homeland Security must be able to respond to acts of terrorism, natural disasters, and other catastrophic events, with the support of bureaus within the department such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard, and Border Patrol. Control of American borders is also a critical aspect of the Department of Homeland Security, as is monitoring of potential security threats.

Liaisons with a number of government officials are expected of the US Secretary of Homeland Security. He or she works with the Department of Defense as well as American intelligence agencies to monitor potential threats to American security, and also supervises interaction with local agencies, many of which must fulfill Homeland Security mandates in order to receive funding, training, and other forms of assistance from the government.

As a relatively recently established agency, the Department of Homeland security struggles with a number of issues. Many Americans are familiar with the infamous Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), which supervises airport security, and the Homeland Security Advisory System, which codes the threat of terrorist attacks by color, but beyond that, they may not be very familiar with the workings of the agency and its numerous departments. This can make policy proposals from the US Secretary of Homeland Security a tough sell for many Americans.


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