Homeland Security Awards Grants to Counter Domestic Extremism

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said DHS is "focused on stepping up efforts to counter terrorist recruitment and radicalization, including through close collaboration with state and local partners." Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said DHS is "focused on stepping up efforts to counter terrorist recruitment and radicalization, including through close collaboration with state and local partners." Susan Walsh/AP

Twenty-six law enforcement and community groups will receive the Trump administration Homeland Security Department’s first Countering Violent Extremism grants, the department announced on Friday.

The program, enacted by Congress in December 2015 and planned on a strategic level by the Obama administration last November, funds community-led initiatives to “combat all forms of violent extremism, including the rising threat from Islamist terrorism,” the department said in a release.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said soon after his arrival that he would review the program, which allocates $10 million for the first grants and is done in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The specific reference to Islamic terrorism had not appeared in the Obama plans assembled by George Selim, the director of DHS’ Office of Community Partnerships appointed by previous Secretary Jeh Johnson. Selim remains at DHS but was not mentioned in the grant announcement; a DHS spokeswoman said it is typical not to name office directors in this type of announcement. 

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“We are witnessing a global surge in terrorist activity, and in many ways our own backyard has become the battleground,” Kelly said.  “That is why DHS is focused on stepping up efforts to counter terrorist recruitment and radicalization, including through close collaboration with state and local partners.” His policy review, he said, was intended to “ensure taxpayer dollars go to programs with the highest likelihood of success, that support the men and women on the front lines of this fight, and that can be self-sustaining into the future.” He added that the department will closely monitor these efforts.

DHS received almost 200 applications, from 40 states and territories and the District of Columbia, including 106 non-university nonprofits, 60 state and local government organizations, and 31 universities. “These DHS investments will help foster counter narratives to push back against terrorist messaging and will assist local law enforcement in building the trust needed to intervene in time to keep young people from going down the path toward violence,” the department said.

When the Obama team rolled out their strategy, the program drew criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union for assuming that people “at risk” for terrorism could be predicted by their ideology. And it was criticized from the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform for not coordinating sufficiently with local law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

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