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How DHS is Countering Violent Extremism

Release Date: August 8, 2011

Posted by Secretary Napolitano

For the past several years, DHS and our partners have worked to develop and strengthen a homeland security ”enterprise” to reduce risks, protect our nation, and respond effectively to a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. This effort is based on the simple but powerful premise that our homeland security begins with hometown security.

In other words, we are all stakeholders in the effort to keep our families and communities, our businesses, our social networks, and our places of meeting and worship, secure and resilient. Together, we’re building a strong foundation to protect communities from terrorism and other threats, while safeguarding the fundamental rights of all Americans.

Today’s threats are rapidly evolving, and they require our vigilance, as well as our willingness to learn and adapt. We know that terrorist groups inspired by al Qaeda’s ideology are seeking to inspire and recruit Westerners to carry out attacks with little or no warning. Indeed, one of the most striking aspects of today’s threat picture is that plots to attack America increasingly involve American residents and citizens.

But we also know that violent extremism isn’t constrained by international borders, or by any single ideology. Research and experience shows that religion, ethnicity, and cultural background do not explain why a small few choose to take their radical beliefs down a violent path. Because there is no single profile of a would-be terrorist, we therefore don't have the luxury of focusing our efforts on any particular group.

That is why over the past eighteen months, DHS has been working with a broad range of partners to gain a better understanding of the behaviors, tactics, and other indicators that could point to terrorist activity. And we’re sharing what we know about the best ways to mitigate or prevent that activity.

Our approach to countering violent extremism 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 violent extremists.

And while our primary purpose is to prevent a terrorist attack by individuals recruited by violent extremists, or inspired by an extremist ideology, we also support strong and resilient communities as important ends in themselves.

A new Fact Sheet we are releasing today outlines our three main objectives:

  1. 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. 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. 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, DHS is 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, which President Obama released last week.

America has a long history of communities playing an active role in their own security. Today, hometowns across the country are working together, building a strong foundation for a secure and resilient homeland.

Protecting the nation is a shared responsibility and we all have a role to play.

Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
Last Updated: 09/21/2018
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