Enhancing tech capabilities and the dissemination of threat intelligence to pertinent partners will be critical factors in confronting the “dynamic and evolving” threats posed by domestic terrorism, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
“What we need to do is ensure that those talented personnel have the tools they need to address the threat landscape and to address it with all its dynamism and changes and evolution,” Mayorkas told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security on Wednesday, two days before the Biden administration released its fiscal year 2022 budget request.
The DHS budget request provides $52.2 billion in net discretionary funding, remaining flat from fiscal year 2021. This includes $131 million “to support diverse, innovative, and community-driven methods to prevent domestic terrorism while respecting civil rights and liberties,” and supporting “critical research on the root causes of radicalization and enhanced community outreach.”
The request includes $20 million for grants “to build local capacity to prevent targeted violence and all forms of terrorism” through the new Center for Prevention, Programs, and Partnerships (CP3), which was created last month to replace the Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention. “These grants support activities that prevent the recruitment or radicalization of individuals to violence by interrupting those efforts, building community-level resilience, and identifying the early signs of radicalization to violence,” the budget says.
In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency Homeland Security Grant Program would provide about $75 million to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments “to address capability gaps in preventing, preparing for, protecting against, and responding to acts of terrorism.”
Separately, an additional $101 million is requested in the Justice Department budget “to address the rising threat of domestic terrorism while respecting civil rights and civil liberties,” including $45 million to support FBI domestic terrorism investigations, $40 million for U.S. Attorneys “to manage increasing domestic terrorism caseloads,” $12 million to boost U.S. Marshals Service response capabilities, and $4 million to the National Institute of Justice to “support research on domestic terrorism threats.”
“In recent months, DHS has made it a top priority to address violent extremism, which I believe to be the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to the United States today,” Mayorkas told senators.
“This feels to me like an all-hands-on-deck moment given that it is the primary threat posed to the nation’s security today,” Chairman Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said. “But in answering critics who may say DHS has so many other things to do, so much existing focus on foreign threats, does it compromise the mission or contradict or make redundant other agencies’ existing missions on domestic violent extremism for DHS to get more involved in this space?”
“I’m convinced that everybody should be a part of this conversation,” Murphy added. “You’ve got capabilities that are unique. But for those that worry that it’ll distract from other missions, what’s the answer?”
Mayorkas replied that “we should never underestimate the commitment, dedication, and talent and capabilities of the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security,” yet ensuring they have the right tools is critical.
“To give a real-life example with budget implications, I sat down with the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. And we looked at the fact that when I started in the Department of Homeland Security the greatest threat — or I should say the most urgent threat — was from foreign terrorist organizations,” he said. “And then it evolved to homegrown violent extremism. And now it is evolved where the most urgent threat on the homeland in the terrorism environment is domestic violent extremism.”
“But do we have the tools that are capable to address that dynamism? Do we have the infrastructure and are we resourcing it appropriately? And so one of the conclusions was that we actually have to increase the technological capabilities at the disposal of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis so that infrastructure can address whatever the most urgent threat is. And specific to domestic violent extremism, obtaining, collecting, disseminating to state, local, tribal, territorial partners real-time, actionable information while respecting privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.”
Mayorkas added that DHS is dedicating the resources to fight domestic terrorism and “we will be requesting of the subcommittee resources to build that infrastructure to deal most effectively with the dynamism and evolving threat landscape.”
“I look forward to working with you on that appropriations request to make sure that there aren’t redundancies created with other agencies who have been in this space,” Murphy replied.