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DHS's Approach to Countering Violent Extremism

Department of Homeland Security: Countering Violent Extremism

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Overview

We have become a stronger, more secure nation over the last decade. Our experience also has made us better prepared to mitigate and respond to the kind of threats we face. We have used this knowledge to make our nation and communities more resilient, not only to terrorist and violent extremist attacks, but also to threats and disasters of all kinds, while safeguarding the fundamental rights of all Americans.

There should be no doubt, however, that serious threats remain. The terrorist threats facing the United States have evolved significantly over the last decade, and continue to evolve. In addition to the direct threats from al-Qa‘ida, foreign terrorist groups affiliated with al-Qa‘ida, as well as individual terrorist thought leaders, are seeking to recruit or inspire Westerners to carry out attacks with little or no warning.

The threat posed by violent extremism, however, is neither constrained by international borders nor limited to any single ideology. Groups and individuals inspired by a range of religious, political, or other ideological beliefs have promoted and used violence against the Homeland. Increasingly sophisticated use of the Internet, mainstream and social media, and information technology by violent extremists adds an additional layer of complexity.

To counter violent extremism (CVE) the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working with a broad range of partners to gain a better understanding of the behaviors, tactics, and other indicators that could point to potential terrorist activity within the United States, and the best ways to mitigate or prevent that activity.

Our approach to CVE emphasizes the strength of local communities. We begin with the premise that well-informed and -equipped families, communities, and local institutions represent the best defense against terrorist ideologies. And while our primary purpose is to prevent a terrorist and violent extremist attack by an individual or group recruited by a violent extremist organization, or inspired by an extremist ideology, we also support strong and resilient communities as important ends themselves.

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Three Broad CVE Objectives

  1. Understanding Violent Extremsim. Support and coordinate efforts to better understand the phenomenon of violent extremism, including assessing the threat it poses to the nation as a whole and within specific communities;
  2. Support Local Communities. Bolster efforts to catalyze and support non-governmental, community-based programs, and strengthen relationships with communities that may be targeted for recruitment by violent extremists; and
  3. Support Local Law Enforcement. Disrupt and deter recruitment or individual mobilization through support for local law enforcement programs, including information-driven, community-oriented policing efforts that for decades have proven effective in preventing violent crime.

To implement this approach, we are working closely with our federal and international partners, as well as our many partners at the community, state, local, and tribal level across the country. We are an important partner in supporting the National Strategy on Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism (PDF, 12 pages - 2.79 MB), which President Obama released on August 3, 2011.

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