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The History

On September 20, 2001, President George W. Bush announced the creation of the U.S. Office of Homeland Security (USDHS) and appointed then Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Ridge, as its leader. USDHS released the National Strategy for Homeland Security within a year, urging all Governors to establish a State Homeland Security Task Force. President Bush emphasized the importance of transitioning from focusing on responding and recovering from Terrorism to prevention.

Following the publication of USDHS’ National Strategy, Secretary Ridge wrote a letter in March 2003 to Governors regarding Federal grant dollars. In the letter, Ridge encouraged Governors to designate a State Homeland Security Advisor (HSA) to serve as USDHS’ main point of contact for Homeland Security policies, briefings during significant Terrorist incidents, Federal grant administration, and the coordination of strategic planning among State departments related to Homeland Security matters.

Illinois adhered to this directive by appointing an HSA and establishing the Illinois Terrorism Task Force (ITTF) through Executive Order 2003-17. Until February 2023, the ITTF functioned as an advisory body to the Governor and HSA, advising the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) on Federal Homeland Security grant funding matters.

During this nearly two-decade period, while other States facing similar threats invested in establishing formal and robust State-level Offices of Homeland Security, Illinois operated without such an entity and maintained the ITTF. This changed in 2023, when Illinois’ 43rd Governor, JB Pritzker, recognized the evolving threat landscape and the need for a proactive, prevention-based approach to Homeland Security.

Atrocities like the Highland Park mass shooting, the tragic fatal stabbing of six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume, and the 2019 floods underscore the array of challenges the State confronts and highlight the diverse and emerging threats to Homeland Security that Illinois faces. Given these challenges, establishing a formal State Office of Homeland Security is necessary to serve as a unified coordinating body, ensuring a proactive and cohesive response to such threats. In February 2023, Governor Pritzker signed Executive Order 2023-03, establishing the State’s first Office of Homeland Security and renaming IEMA to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security (IEMA-OHS), alongside renaming the ITTF as the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC).