Emergency Preparedness, Safety, Security

Biden Marks 20th Anniversary of Homeland Security Department: ‘Because of You, America Is Safer’

On March 1, President Joe Biden and other officials marked the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and honored its workforce. Following the September 11 attacks, former 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.

President Biden and DHS Secretary Mayorkas

The youngest but third-largest cabinet department, DHS has a mission spanning across terrorism prevention, law enforcement, border and maritime security and immigration services, transportation security, emergency response and recovery, protective services, cybersecurity, and more.

Special Remarks

Biden joined Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas and hundreds of DHS employees at the department’s headquarters at St. Elizabeths Campus in Washington, D.C. The ceremony honored the workforce and recognized the approximately 32,000 plank holders who joined DHS on its first day and continue to serve today.

The ceremony included special remarks by Biden and Mayorkas, as well as recorded messages from former President George W. Bush and former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge.

“The Department of Homeland Security was formed out of the tragedy of 9/11, but with an unshakeable resolve of a sacred mission to secure our country and to protect the American people,” said Biden. “Because of you, America is safer, it’s stronger, and it’s better prepared to meet whatever threat we face.”

Mayorkas told DHS workers, “I express confidence in the security of our future because of you—your talent and your tireless dedication to mission. The foundation of the work we perform now and will perform in the years ahead is the legacy of your service over the past twenty years. Thank you for everything you do.”

“Twenty years ago, I asked Congress to join me in creating a new, unified department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the homeland of America and protecting the American people,” said Bush. The former president noted DHS “was established in the largest government restructuring since World War II” and also praised its workers for their service.

“As I have stayed in close contact with my successors—and many of the men and women with whom I proudly served originally—what has never changed is the total commitment to protect our citizens,” said Ridge. “The dedication of the public servants at DHS, with all of the pressures of a still-young government agency, is unmatched in our federal government.”

“When the worst is happening, we are there,” said DHS plank holder Clifford Brown of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “We are the ones who give our brothers and sisters in America hope.”

9/11 Flag

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 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 the everlasting memory of those lost on and as a result of 9/11.

All photos courtesy of DHS/Sydney Phoenix

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