Comparison and contrast of the U.S. military, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies

To ensure that there is peace and stability in the nation, it is the duty of the military, homeland security, federal, state, and local law enforcement security organizations. Similar organizational frameworks have been set up by the organizations to encourage seamless intelligence transfer within their systems. The mandates and jurisdictions of the organizations, however, influence how they operate differently. The mandates of homeland security organizations limit them to domestic threats. On the other hand, the military is empowered to take the necessary action against groups planning to carry out terrorism attacks domestically or against Americans abroad. Each agency needs to take the appropriate strategy to fulfill its obligations because the mandates are different. The military needs sophisticated gadgetry such as spy satellites and cryptography computer packages to intercept communications between the United States' enemies. In contrast, the homeland security agencies rely on direct observation and undercover agents.

Table of Contents

Introduction 4

Similarities 4

Procedures 5

Chain of Command 6

Differences in the Military, Federal, State, Local Law Enforcement and the Homeland Security Entities' Operations and Intelligence Management 7

Mandates 7

Intelligence Management Techniques 9

Jurisdiction 10

Conclusion 12




Every security agency in the United States plays a specific role in keeping Americans safe from security threats or maintaining peace, order, and stability. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security, the military, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), police department and the National Security Agency (NSA) have specific duties and responsibilities as far as protecting the United States and its citizens from any harm is concerned (Philpott, 2015). Intelligence is core to achieving all these agencies' top priorities. Therefore, each entity has established sophisticated communication gadgets and high-tech nerve centers to coordinate their functions. The agencies often exchange intelligence and form joint task forces especially during imminent security concerns such as terrorist attacks. However, the organizations employ different tactics to deliver their mandates. In fact, each entity has long bureaucratic histories, cultures and management styles that guide the members as they engage in various assigned duties.


The individual military departments, as well as homeland security agencies, operate at least one intelligence unit. According to Martin (2013), all the entities' mandates involve gathering, analyzing and disseminating information on defense and national security matters to the appropriate authorities. The organizations' overall duties are to acquire and deliver knowledge on how to eliminate any threat associated with aerospace, sea, land and computer networks. The entities rely on the same intelligence gathering and analysis techniques. Clark (2015) observed that the institutions often send undercover agents to collect first-hand information, employ spy satellites to intercept communication between the enemies, make immunity deals with the suspected or convicted criminals in exchange for information on their organizations.


Each agency has established infrastructures for gathering news, event, rumor, gossip on the national security issues. It then assigns agents or officer to conduct investigations and finally alert other partners. This means that the agencies' only not have the same definition of intelligence but also utilize matching procedures in responding to hints on any matter deemed as a threat to the United States. For example, even an institution assigned to general administration roles such as neighborhood safety will obtain as much information as possible whenever it suspects that individual is involved in illicit activities outside its jurisdictions such as cross-border arms smuggling.

Several studies have attributed the overlaps in the agencies' functions to the similarities in their secondary purposes. Brady (2016) found that efforts towards minimizing the security risks are duplicated as CIA, DIA, NSA and homeland security often play the same roles in analyzing the threats. The researcher observed that each agency have a division specializing in cyber threats. For example, the FBI has Cyber Task Force while Homeland Security Department controls cyber threat Integration Center. Such units' launch similar computer forensics or network intrusion technologies to detect crimes such as hacking, cyber bullying, and related fraud cases (Stavridis & Uthoff, 2015). As a result, multiple organizations usually commit significant resources in responding to the same issues. Lack of the seamless coordination has also led to incidences where cyber crimes go unpunished because the institutions assume that the issues would be handled by their counterparts (Brady, 2016). The government created the director of national Intelligence to eliminate the conflicts and deficiencies that occur when each unit pursues its own goals and missions. The director serves as the advisor to the president and receives intelligence from all the military and law enforcement institutions and disseminate to the appropriate branch of the government (Clark, 2015).

Chain of Command

All the agencies expect the members to follow well-defined protocols at all times. The authorization to access classified information is restricted to the senior most officers. In most cases, the agencies form task forces comprising employees from different levels. The staff at junior levels must report their findings to their supervisors that in turn update the senior-most personnel on the investigations outcomes. Oliver, Marion & Hill (2015) argue that this is because the security institutions' management teams experience similar challenges in their lines of work. Criminal organizations always try to penetrate into the agencies' communication infrastructures by bribing the employees as well as through hacking. Hoffman & Branlat (2015) found that the institutions require the members to obtain security clearance that they mostly provide on a need-to-know basis due to such concerns. The junior members of the task forces cannot access the classified information until they demonstrate that it is not possible to perform their duties without it.

Almost all the entities have lost confidential information to the press or unauthorized people at one point. Carlin (2015) cites that the federal employees account for more than half of the security breaches the agencies have been experiencing each year. Scammers often trick them to click malware-laden links. As a result, homeland security institutions and the military employ thorough recruitment. A background check is a mandatory procedure for identifying candidates with high integrity to minimize the security threats. The organizations' policy prohibits the management from employing an officer with criminal records or gang or terrorist affiliations. The military, intelligence agencies and police departments have further created internal affairs divisions to investigate incidents of misconduct. The officers who violate the laws face similar disciplinary actions such as dismissal, demotion, or jail terms (Oliver et al., 2015).

Differences in the Military, Federal, State, Local Law Enforcement and the Homeland Security Entities' Operations and Intelligence Management

There are significant differences in the agencies' jurisdiction, mandates or designated responsibilities. Each military or law enforcement entity specializes in particular operations or issue. As a result, the entities devised unique cultures and management techniques to strengthen their abilities to excel in the assigned responsibilities. Homeland Security has four federal agencies Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Coast Guard, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Several studies have concluded that these domestic entities rely more on the information gathered through everyday observation and interaction with the suspected criminal organizations (Haynes & Giblin, 2014; Walsh & Miller, 2016). On the other hand, the agencies counterparts that deal with foreign intelligence must acquire technology-advanced satellites, software, and communication devices to meet their obligations to the country.


The security institutions have distinct mandates. In fact, the legislation's specify the roles that each agency should perform. For example, ICE mission is to access, integrate, analyze and supply timely intelligence to the department, state, and local government (Philpott, 2015). On the other hand, CBP ensures that the terrorist and illegal arms, drugs, and commodities do not enter the country. The agency's mandate allows it to detain suspicious immigrants such as those with forged documents. However, it should hand over the suspects to the appropriate law enforcement institution depending on the information gathered. For example, FBI may take over if the illegal immigrant is suspected to have links with a terrorist. In contrast, Drug Enforcement Administration will take the case if the suspect is found with illicit substances such as cocaine, heroin or bhang.

On the other hand, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) primary responsibility is collecting and analyzing military intelligence. The information entails terrain analysis of the battlefields such as the terrorist hideouts. The agency employs special computer packages or sends agents/ spies to survey the areas. Clark (2015) explains that DIA is concerned with intelligence such as political assessment, weapon movements, and military capabilities. Such knowledge is aimed at giving us army advantage over the enemies during both the domestic and international battles against criminal organizations.

The defense department and other policymakers rely on the data collected by the military to implement proactive measures. For example, intelligence on the recent incidents such as the Paris attacks, Brussels and Istanbul's bombings have significant impacts on the homeland security future operations (Hoffman, 2016). The military agencies have increased surveillance on the individuals entering the country as well as monitoring communications between the residents that may have affiliations with the extremists such as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab and many others. Moreover, the policymakers continue to use the new tactics employed by these terrorist groups to launch more technology advanced training programs.

Intelligence Management Techniques

Military agencies such as CIA, DIA, and NSA mainly collect intelligence for evaluating and preventing future threats to the nation (Warner, 2011). In contrast, homeland security, federal, state and local law enforcement institutions gather information to prosecute offenders or prevent criminal and domestic terrorism acts. For example, CBP officers also base their decisions on knowledge obtained from the immigrants as they enter or leave the country. Philpott (2015) argue that the policemen and women cross-examine the traveling documents and ask questions to verify whether the aliens have legal right to visit the United States. CBP further coordinates its activities with the FBI, CIA, and NSA to apprehend illegal immigrants or prevent the movements of unauthorized commodities across the border.

Like other homeland security firms, ICE employs multiple strategies to acquire information and either stop criminal activities before they happen or collaborate with the military to minimize the damages. Wiretapping, undercover operations, and hotlines provide the ICE with the tools needed to perform such high priority security functions. The institutions work hand in hand with domestic units such as the local police that are uniquely position to gain information about suspicious behaviors.

In contrast, the military mostly intercepts communications between parties or groups conspiring to commit a crime against Americans. Its intelligence Units such as NSA utilizes cryptography to gather and deliver top secret information to the highest government authorities. This is a high-tech technique for storing and transmitting data in ways that only authorized parties can read or process it. Landau (2015) found that the criminal organizations often use microdots, merge words with images and scramble plain words into ciphertexts so as to convey hidden messages to their associates. However, NSA has spy satellites that gather such secrets through decoding the messages exchanged via emails, fax, telephone calls, and social media platforms. NSA also develops and releases computer viruses to disrupt the criminal groups' communication systems.

At the same time, NSA protects other homeland security agencies from cyber attacks. Therefore, it specializes on wiretapping as opposed the other organizations that deploys field agents to collect information. According to Clark (2015), the organization does not engage in in-person intelligence collection but has instead established sophisticated gadgetry at its headquarters in Fort Meade to acquire information. The entity requires its members to maintain low profiles. NSA's mission and bylaws allow it to concentrate on foreign intelligence. However, there are concerns that its responsibilities sometimes conflicts not only with the FBI but also violates innocent individuals' privacy. For example, New York Times, the Guardian and Washington Post reported that NSA illegally eavesdrops as American communicates with their international business associates, friends or family members. It partnered with AT& T Company to install a fiber optic cable that makes copies of all the firm customers' emails and internet traffic (Reddick, Chatfield & Jaramillo, 2015).


Military intelligence traditionally focuses on tracking the enemies' movements within and across the borders while the homeland security units' jurisdiction are limited to particular states or districts. The CIA prioritizes foreign issues, oversees counterintelligence operations and shares their findings on any threat to the country with the president and the top oficers of the defense department. The information mostly focuses on plots by terrorists or criminal organizations to harm an American citizen or launch attacks targeting the United States and its allies. CIA primary duty is managing human intelligence. It strikes deals with confidential informants and spies to monitor the movements of dangerous people such as mercenaries, drug lords and terrorist. As Brady (2016) explains, CIA is interested in issues that do not pose direct threats to the country but also to the rest of the world. These may include arm and human trafficking, assassination attempts on dignitaries, violations of nuclear weapon laws, kidnappings of innocent people and many others.

On the other hand, FBI is the leading law enforcement agency on the domestic matters. Unlike the other homeland security entities, FBI serves under Justice Department. It has jurisdiction or power over other entities in handling security on the US soil. It oversees all the domestic intelligence pertaining to criminal issues. According to Philpott (2015), the FBI's primary mission is to deliver criminal justice services to all the law enforcement entities at the state, municipal, federal and international levels. The PATRIOTIC Act gives the FBI advantage over its counterparts with the mandates of collecting foreign intelligence (White, 2016). In this case, the PATRIOTIC Act refers to legislation to use wiretaps and conduct surveillance on the individual residents engaging in terrorist-related activities. As such, FBI acquires search warrants to send agents to collect information on matters posing security risks to the country and its residents more quickly than NSA, DIA, and CIA (White, 2016).

Before the September 11th attacks, the agency prioritized high profile criminal investigations such as combating activities of the infamous domestic terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Animal Liberation Front. On the other hand, the 9/11 bombing forced the FBI's to expand its duties to include all the national security threats. Currently, its jurisdiction covers over 200 federal crimes ranging from acts of terrorism to white-collar crimes such as hacking, insider trading, and money laundering, and civil right violations.


The military and homeland security departments' primary responsibilities and mandates aim at a common goal. That is, to ensure that all Americans maximize their rights to protection from any harm. The institutions have established identical structures to promote efficient flow of intelligence within their systems. All the agencies' information management procedures treat any unusual issue, behavior, or action by suspected criminals, terrorists as a significant security threat to the United States and its allies. Virtually, all the entities rely on human intelligence, confidential informants, spy satellites and other technologically advanced communication systems to obtain such information. Given the sensitive nature of the military and homeland security firms' operations, each institution is characterized by bureaucratic processes to restrict information flow to the wrong hands. The employees who violate the protocols face disciplinary actions.

On the other hand, the security agencies' operations and intelligence management styles vary with their mandates and jurisdiction. All the homeland security institutions' mandates restrict them to security issues facing the US residents within the country directly. In contrast, the military has the authorities to take appropriate action against an organization perpetrating or conspiring to engage in criminal or terrorist activity against Americans in the country or those living in the foreign nations. Law enforcement or military agencies' primary responsibility further influences their intelligence collection techniques. While the military relies on sophisticated gadgetry such as spy satellites and cryptography computer packages to intercept communications among the United States' enemies, wiretapping, direct observation and undercover agents are most effective for the homeland security agencies. In other words, the differences exist in the organizations' operations because they require the right approaches to achieve their unique missions efficiently. Otherwise, the military and homeland security agencies would employ similar tactics if they all had a common primary responsibility.


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