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Department of Homeland Security Facts for March 1, 2003

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
February 28, 2003

On March 1, the Department of Homeland Security assumes operational control of nearly 180,000 employees from incoming agencies and offices.  In addition, a series of Presidential Directives and Memoranda of Understanding transfer specific authorities and responsibilities to the Department of Homeland Security.

Presidential Directive

The President has issued a Homeland Security Presidential Directive that provides the Secretary of Homeland Security with the responsibility to manage major domestic incidents by establishing a single, comprehensive national incident management system.  Components of the Directive include:

  • The Secretary of Homeland Security is responsible for coordinating federal operations to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from all domestic incidents when any of the following conditions apply: (1) the initial lead federal department or agency has requested assistance; (2) the resources of state and local authorities are overwhelmed and assistance has been requested by the state and local authorities; (3) more than one federal agency has become substantially involved in responding to the incident; or (4) he has been directed to assume responsibility for the domestic incident by the President.
  •  All federal departments and agencies shall cooperate with the Secretary of Homeland Security in the Secretary's domestic incident management role and shall participate in and use domestic incident reporting systems and protocols established by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
  •  The Secretary of Homeland Security will provide assistance to state and local governments to develop all-hazards plans and capabilities, including those of greatest importance to the security of the United States homeland, such as the prevention of terrorist attacks and preparedness for the potential use of weapons of mass destruction, and ensure that state, local, and federal plans are compatible.
  •  The Attorney General has the lead responsibility for criminal investigations and intelligence operations concerning terrorist attacks and shall also work to ensure that members of the law enforcement community will work with the Secretary of Homeland Security as the official responsible for domestic incident management, to detect, prevent, preempt, and disrupt terrorist attacks against the United States.
  • Transfers the authority for developing, implementing and managing the national Homeland Security Advisory System (color-coded advisory system), previously held by the Attorney General, to the Secretary of Homeland Security.  

 New Authorities

DHS has entered into several Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) to assume full responsibility for national incident support functions previously controlled by other Departments.  

The Department will assume control of the:

  • Domestic Emergency Support Teams previously under the Department of Justice that expeditiously provide expert advice, guidance and support to the Federal On-Scene Commander during an incident involving weapons of mass destruction or a credible threat.

  • Nuclear Incident Support Teams, Atmospheric Release Advisory Capability, Radiological Assistance Program and the Aerial Measuring System previously under the Department of Energy that provides radiological response assets to respond during a radiological incident.

  • Strategic National Stockpile previously under the Department of Health and Human Services that ensures the availability and rapid deployment of life-saving pharmaceuticals, antidotes, and other medical supplies and equipment.

  • National Disaster Medical Teams previously under the Department of Health and Human Services that establish a single, integrated national medical response capability for assisting state and local authorities in dealing with the medical and health effects of major disasters and terrorist attacks.  

President Bush signed an Executive Order effective March 1 with nearly 88 amendments that modify existing Executive Orders to reflect the transfer of functions from other Departments to DHS.  

Sixteen amendments add the Secretary as a member of entities such as:

  • Interagency Transportation Infrastructure Streamlining Task Force
  • President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
  • USA Freedom Corps Council
  • National Economic Council
  • Trade Policy Committee
  • Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States

Other key amendments and other provisions:

  • Dissolve the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, and transfer reporting, funding, and administrative responsibilities for the National Infrastructure Advisory Council to the Department of Homeland Security.
  •  Add the intelligence elements of the Coast Guard as "agencies within the Intelligence Community" alongside CIA, NSA, DIA, elements of the Department's Directorate for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, and others.
  • Designate the Department of Homeland Security as a "defense agency of the United States" for purposes of 35 U.S.C. § 181, which accords the chief officer of any Federal department or agency so designated the right to inspect certain inventions that will be disclosed by the granting of a patent, and with respect to which disclosure might be detrimental to the national security, for the purpose of determining whether the invention should be kept secret.


In order to unify the chain of command and allow key immigration, customs and agriculture officers and inspectors to take their direction from only one manager, INS will transition into DHS under three separate components: The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP). Forms and documents issued by the INS are still valid, and customers will continue to find services in the same locations.  

Management Activities

  • DHS entered into Memoranda of Agreements (MOAs) with other federal Departments to ensure that all management, administrative and other support functions for the incoming organizational elements continue after March 1 and until DHS establishes the necessary infrastructure to perform these functions.
  • Issued nearly 130 Management Directives to establish the initial operating procedures for DHS and provide clear guidance to incoming organizational elements on March 1st.
  • Established necessary processes to ensure that all employees from all incoming DHS organizational elements are properly paid, without interruption, after March 1st.  DHS will coordinate personnel transfers to DHS coincide with established pay periods, making the transition seamless for new DHS employees.