Chapter Summary

The domestic surveillance operations of the National Security Agency (NSA) led to many questions about the role of government and the growing use of private contractors in homeland security. This chapter emphasizes key issues in foreign policy and homeland security, addresses questions about the effectiveness of new policies adopted in the years following the terrorist attacks of 2001 and considers the national security threats posed by the growth of international terrorism.

Foreign policy refers to the collection of government actions that affect the U.S. national security and economy, while defense policy concerns the military actions of government. The National Security Council (NSC) is a council of the heads of defense-related government entities headed by the president. Aside from the president, NSA, and NSC, the governmental entities involved in the U.S. defense include the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Department of Defense, and Department of Homeland Security.

Following World War II, the United States worked to rebuild Europe through the Marshall Plan and the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the formation of and support for the United Nations (UN), a military buildup, development and growth of CIA and NSA, and the initiation of economic and military assistance to other nations for humanitarian and strategic purposes. This was grounded in realpolitik, a practical appraisal of national interests. The Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union was fought using surrogate nations. Through the UN and other international organizations, an attempt is made to manage globalization. The UN Security Council is made up of 10 nations selected from the UN General Assembly (including five permanent members). Several affiliated organizations who work toward goals similar to those of the UN include the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO); all are controlled by leading developed nations, such as the United States.

The United States pursued a policy of deterrence, a dramatic and costly military buildup during the 1950s, including nuclear weapons. Defense became and continued to be one of the largest federal budget items. In the Bush Jr. and Obama administrations, the government increasingly relied on private defense contractors. Audits revealed management deficiencies in defense spending programs. Following the terrorist attacks in 2001, the United States began the “war on terror.” It sent troops to Afghanistan to remove those responsible for the September 11 attacks from power. Deficiencies in intelligence functions then led the United States into the Iraq War to remove Saddam Hussein. The 9/11 Commission Report shed doubt on the effectiveness of the agencies charged with defending the nation and led to a sweeping reorganization of functions.

One of the most recognizable aspects of U.S. foreign policy today is economic and military assistance to other nations, or foreign aid. The Obama administration changed U.S. foreign policy significantly through the use of aid. The Trump administration has departed significantly from historical norms in foreign assistance. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is the principle vehicle for managing economic aid to other countries. This program is widely criticized for being excessive, although it requires only 1% of the federal budget.

The most prominent issues that have arisen in the past few years are also discussed. Among these are the diverse responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security, the varied homeland security threats that the nation faces, the special case of transportation security, and the conflict between pursuit of security goals and protection of citizens’ civil liberties.