mcaleenan senate testimony (DHS photo)

DHS ‘Working on a Formal Strategy’ as Senators Want Details on Domestic Terrorism Resources

Lawmakers want answers from Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan about exactly what’s going on with the new DHS office intended to confront domestic terrorism.

McAleenan announced April 19 the establishment of the DHS Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention, with the purpose of “preventing all forms of terrorism, including both international and domestic, as well as preventing acts of targeted violence such as racially motivated violence.”

He told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee during a budget hearing this week that “white supremacist extremist violence is a huge issue and one that we need a whole of community effort for,” and would be a priority of the new office.

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) sent a letter to McAleenan on Tuesday expressing concern about a rise in domestic terrorism not connected to foreign terrorist organizations. “It is unclear what analysis, training, programs, outreach, grants, or strategies DHS continues to utilize in 2019 that specifically target the rise of domestic terrorism,” they wrote.

Hassan and Grassley said they welcomed the announcement of the new DHS office, but wanted “to ensure that this reorganization is not in name only; rather, it’s imperative that it have adequate staff, funds, and leadership to effectuate its goals.”

The senators asked McAleenan to provide the DHS strategy specifically addressing the rise in domestic terrorism, a breakdown of funding allocated to fighting domestic terrorism in 2019 and for the past 10 years, the 10-year breakdown of policy and program staff dedicated to domestic terrorism, and information on whether DHS has funded any grants for FY20 that would prevent or combat domestic terrorism.

Grassley and Hassan also wanted to know “what resources will be dedicated to preventing domestic terrorism under the new Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention, how many staff will cover domestic terrorism in this office, and who will lead the new office.”

A House Homeland Security Committee source told HSToday that they similarly had received no information on the Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention since its announcement, including staffing details.

“How will DHS, through the Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention, empower state and local communities while still assessing the issues on a federal level?” the Grassley and Hassan letter asked. “…Given the Department’s role in training state and local law enforcement nationwide, and the frequent overlap between incidents of domestic terrorism and hate crimes, how is DHS supporting interagency efforts to increase hate crime reporting?”

The senators asked McAleenan to respond by June 3. When the secretary was in front of the Senate HSGAC on Thursday, though, Hassan engaged him in a mini “lightning round” of questions on the matter.

McAleenan agreed with the National Strategy for Counterterrorism assessment that domestic terrorism not inspired by foreign terrorist organizations is on the rise.

“We’re working on a formal strategy, but we do have that as a priority operational effort already,” he said.

McAleenan said he’d have to get back to lawmakers on how much of the department’s budget is dedicated to fighting domestic terrorism, and how that compares to previous years.

“How many intelligence analysts at DHS headquarters tasked with the primary responsibility of covering domestic terrorism are there?” Hassan asked.

“I’ll get back to you on that, as well, but what I can tell you is that under Under Secretary [David] Glawe, he’s forward-deployed a number of the intel analysts to work directly embedded with state and locals around the country, not only in our fusion centers, but in key sheriffs and police departments around the country. And that’s one of their focus areas,” McAleenan replied.

“I have been concerned that resources that once were devoted to domestic terrorism have been taken and used other places,” Hassan said. “And it’s one thing to say we care about it and are committed to it, which I believe, and I understand it’s another thing to have the resources, personnel focus to do it. So I’ll look forward to that update from you, and thank you.”

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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