President Biden marked the 20th anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security Wednesday by hailing its 260,000 employees for allowing Americans to “live their lives” and “dream their dreams” after its formation in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
He said the sprawling agency’s work is as important as it’s ever been, rattling off a growing list of responsibilities.
“Preventing terror attacks, domestically and globally, protecting our air, land and maritime borders,” Mr. Biden said at DHS headquarters within the St. Elizabeths campus in Washington. “Responding in an instant to natural disasters.”
“With the climate crisis, we’re asking more of you every single day, with extreme weather impacting communities with mounting frequency and ferocity,” the president said.
The department was formed by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and began operations in 2003. Its portfolio is vast and includes immigration services and border security, election and cyber security, the U.S. Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency, among other components.
“We’re going to continue to make sure you have the resources to do your job because your job is so expansive across the board,” Mr. Biden said.
The president praised the agency for remaining nimble and adapting to new technological challenges in a quickly evolving world.
“I know the stakes and the stress of the job take an incredible toll, yet every single one of you answers the call every day,” he said. “You represent the best of us.”
Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas opened festivities by noting that Mr. Biden voted in favor of the agency’s creation as a senator from Delaware.
“Twenty years, whoa,” Mr. Biden said. “When we voted to set y’all up no one ever thought it would be 260,000 people. But you’ve done an incredible job.”
A crowd in Yuma, Arizona, cheered Mr. Mayorkas’ potential impeachment last month at a field hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, held to highlight lax border security.
Former President George W. Bush, who oversaw the department‘s creation, offered a recorded message for the anniversary.
“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,” Mr. Bush said.
He called it the largest government restructuring since World War II.
“The people who work at DHS come to work every morning knowing their most important job is to protect their fellow citizens,” Mr. Bush said. “You’ve worked tirelessly and effectively to do just that.”