On the other hand, if not now, when? Is it realistic to expect threats to the homeland of any nation to diminish in the immediate future? Without the events of September 11, 2001, it is unlikely that any reorganization of substance would have had the impetus to go further than the planning stage. A fully operational DHS is expected to have the resources readily available for controlling borders, fighting terrorism, and combating illegal activity generally and the power to prioritize such resources and use them more efficiently.
What will the impact of DHS actions be on earlier priorities and policies? Will anticounterfeiting efforts suffer because the Secret Service is no longer in the Treasury Department? Will marine safety activities of the Coast Guard lose their importance in a homeland security organization? Will antidrug efforts be helped, or harmed, by infusion of new resources along the U.S. border, resources directed by DHS, not by the Department of Justice?
The issue is part of a broader question: Is the nation overreacting by overprioritizing terrorism? We must ask ourselves, to what degree does America’s expenditure of unending energy and countless billions of dollars constitute a follow-on victory for al Qaeda by weakening our economy and relatively open, unregulated lifestyle? As a society, are we diverting money and attention in an area, or in areas, that are not productive?
What can science, technology, and engineering offer here? How can the scientific and engineering community support government and industry decision making in a world of increasing terrorist risk? The National Academies and other scientific organizations continue to face these questions head on.