Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress today that a grant program for countering violent extremism could take the form of counseling or counter-messaging, but “creativity” is encouraged in ways to steer people away from terrorism.
Fielding questions about the department’s budget request at the House Homeland Security Committee today, Johnson said they’re “in the implementation phase now” to determine how $49 million could held communities prevent and prepare for homegrown terrorism.
“I think that the intent of Congress was that communities be better prepared for complex attacks of the San Bernardino type,” he said.
“It’s a worthwhile mission… I also think that the grant money is important for even earlier in the process, in case somebody’s heading in the wrong direction. To encourage communities to let law enforcement know.”
The Consolidated Appropriation Act of Fiscal Year 2016 included $10 million for Office of Community Partnerships grants to nonprofits and other organizations to counter violent extremism.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), who noted the “very large Muslim population” in her Orange County district, expressed concern that “it’s still unclear how those grants are gonna be administered.”
Johnson said his “vision” for the program “is that we have a grant application process where community organizations have the opportunity to come forward, apply for a grant, we scrub it carefully like we do lots of other grants, and the money be used for messaging in communities at the local level for programs at the local level to prevent people from heading in the direction of violence, to give people an alternative way to channel their energy.”
“In my numerous CVE engagements around the country, in places like Minneapolis, California, Texas, I’ve heard over and over again from communities, ‘we need help ourselves in dealing with this issue — dealing with the problem.’ And I think it should be a national, federal government effort to support that,” he added.
“So when you say nonprofits, competitive, let’s say they get a grant,” Sanchez said. “What what kind of programs to steer people in a different direction. What would that look like, in your opinion?”
“Could be some form of counseling program. Could be some form of competition, like we’re supporting now in colleges, for counter-messages where you encourage people to develop counter- messages to focus on young people, to steer them away from the appeal of the Islamic State’s messages,” the DHS secretary replied.
“Could be a variety of things. So I wanna encourage a certain level of creativity. As the federal government, I don’t necessarily have all the answers, so I wanna see these applications and see what kind of ideas we generate.”
Johnson said he’s hoping for grant applications this year, and extending the program “in ’17 and ’18 and beyond.”