March 11, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security: Priorities for Reform

Washington, March 11, 2021—With a new administration in place and the 117th Congress underway, there is a unique and pressing opportunity to reform the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In the midst of a rapidly evolving security environment, the department should be reoriented in a way that best protects the United States from homeland security threats consistent with law, security and public safety needs, and the nation’s fundamental values.

In “The Department of Homeland Security: Priorities for Reform,” the first of a series of mission briefs on reforming DHS, CNAS Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow Carrie Cordero and Executive Research Assistant Katie Galgano build on recommendations proposed in a May 2020 CNAS report.

The briefing paper articulates priorities from the perspective of retaining the department as an entity, improving its operations to protect the country from legitimate homeland security threats consistent with law and constitutional principles, and improving public confidence in the department’s work and its workforce. Consistent with prior work under the CNAS project on enhancing oversight and accountability in the department, Cordero and Galgano focus primarily on policy recommendations regarding DHS’s border security, immigration, and law enforcement functions, as well as a new area of focus on detention practices. The briefing paper includes recommendations for areas where both the Biden administration and the 117th Congress should focus efforts related to DHS reform.

For more information or to schedule an interview with the authors, contact Cole Stevens at or call 202-695-8166.