The United States Department of National Protection (DNP) is a Cabinet level department of the US Federal Government with the primary responsibilities of protecting the territory of the U.S. from terrorist attacks and responding to natural disasters. DNP works in the civilian sphere to protect the United States within, at, and outside its borders. Its stated goal is to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies, particularly terrorism. In response to the September 11 attacks, President Al Gore announced the establishment of the Office of National Protection (ONP) to coordinate "homeland security" efforts. The office was headed by former Clinton Administration Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, who assumed the title of Assistant to the President for National Protection. The official announcement stated:
- The mission of the Office will be to develop and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from terrorist threats or attacks. The Office will coordinate the executive branch's efforts to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks within the United States. Panetta began his duties as ONP director on October 8, 2001.
There was much dicussion to make the Office a new department, but controversy about its adoption centered on whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency should be incorporated in part or in whole. The bill to create the Department of National Protection (DNP) was also controversial for the presence of unrelated rider legislation (commonly known as "pork"), as well as for solidifying union-friendly civil service and labor protections for department employees. With these protections, employees would not be expeditiously reassigned or dismissed on grounds of security, incompetence or insubordination, and DNP would be required to notify their union representatives. Congress ultimately passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 with the union-friendly measures by a 50-50 vote (with VP Lieberman casting the tie breaking vote), and President Gore signed the bill into law on XXXX, 2002. It was the largest U.S. government reorganization in the 50 years since the United States Department of Defense was created.
Leon Panetta was named DNP Secretary on January 24, 2003 and began naming his chief deputies. DNP officially began operations on January 24, 2003, but most of the department's component agencies were not transferred into the new Department until March 1.