DHS was founded in the aftermath of 9/11 and its mission remains the same today: to protect the safety and security of the American people. Terrorism and targeted violence prevention is at the core of our mission. Following the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Secretary Mayorkas has committed to “… redouble our efforts, to fight hate, and to fight one of the greatest threats that we face currently on our homeland, which is the threat of domestic terrorism.” The Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (OTVTP) supports communities across the United States to prevent individuals from radicalizing to violence and intervene when individuals have already radicalized to violence.
While the underlying rationales may differ, the threats of targeted violence and terrorism overlap, intersect, and interact with each other. Likewise, there is some alignment in the tools that can be applied to address them. Preventing targeted violence and terrorism focuses on the proactive measures that are aimed at building protective capabilities of individuals and groups. These prevention activities aim to empower communities and individuals to be resilient to violent messaging and recruitment while protecting and championing democratic responsibilities and values. Every aspect of OTVTP’s work considers and respects civil rights and civil liberties and have incorporated steps to work with the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) to ensure those protections are included.
In 2019, the Department added “targeted violence” to its prevention mission, to expand beyond terrorism. The goals of any targeted violence attack may lack a discernable political or ideological motive, but inflict the same type of trauma on communities. Consequently, OTVTP works with communities to prevent these types of attacks which include attacks on schools, workplaces, public gatherings, and other settings.
Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention
The Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (OTVTP) seeks a resilient America where localities are united to help end targeted violence and terrorism. On April 19, 2019, DHS announced the transition of the Office of Terrorism Prevention Partnerships (OTPP) to OTVTP. This widened the scope of previous Departmental efforts to ensure that all forms of violence, regardless of the ideological motivation, are being addressed. The Office leverages, coordinates, and builds upon the broad range of prevention activities that are currently undertaken across DHS, including grants, community and law enforcement awareness briefings, threat assessments, and information sharing. The Office provides technical, financial, and educational assistance to whole of society stakeholders to establish and expand local prevention frameworks. Local prevention frameworks connect all segments of local society to prevent individuals from radicalizing to violence and intervene to help individuals who have radicalized to violence. Radicalizing to violence is the process wherein an individual comes to believe, for a variety of reasons, that the threat or use of unlawful violence is necessary – or even justified – to accomplish a goal. The office utilizes a diverse set of resources to accomplish its mission across five teams: Policy and Research, Prevention Education, Strategic Engagement, Grants and Innovation, and Field Operations.
Local Prevention Frameworks
OTVTP’s initiatives and programming ultimately strive to enable and foster local prevention frameworks throughout communities.
What is a Local Prevention Framework?
A local targeted violence and terrorism prevention framework is a network whose goal is to get help to individuals to prevent targeted violence and terrorism.
- Local prevention frameworks connect all segments of local society through:
- Public Awareness that ensures all elements of society are informed of the threat and understand the radicalization to violence process. This includes the ability to recognize the risk factors for this process, and awareness of how to enhance the protective factors that serve as the earliest prevention against this process.
- Community Engagement that convenes the broadest set of local stakeholders to build and sustain trusted partnerships and effective communication. This enables localities to put awareness training into action by ensuring bystanders know about locally available resources and how to get help for individuals who may be radicalizing to violence.
- Threat Assessment and Management that establishes and ensures access to multi-disciplinary teams that can intervene with an individual radicalizing to violence at the earliest moment. Teams may include educators, psychologists, faith leaders, medical personnel, law enforcement, and others.
- Support Services that develop local programs (for example, service activities, career centers, after-school groups, mentoring, counseling, and others) that address risk factors while also providing services that support threat management.
Successful prevention frameworks are locally designed and implemented because each community is unique, with different resources, population compositions, infrastructures, political climates, local needs, and relationship challenges.
Public awareness is a critical component of preventing targeted violence and terrorism. It is imperative that the whole of society is informed and aware of the threat environment, risk factors, behavioral indicators, and what to do when an individual of concern is identified. With the ultimate goal of increasing the capacity of local, credible voices to counter hate that mobilizes individuals to terrorism, OTVTP is dedicated to bolstering awareness through outreach programs.
Community Awareness Briefing (CAB)
- The CAB program began in 2008 as a tool utilized by the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) to educate concerned community members about the process of radicalization to violence.
- The CAB helps audience members begin to think about possible supportive actions that could create “off ramps” in a person’s pathway to radicalization before criminal activity occurs.
- These off ramps can include referrals to social services, mental/behavioral health practitioners, and others.
- The CAB uses a series of case studies covering violent extremism and targeted violence to illustrate the radicalization and recruitment process and to identify vulnerabilities and points of intervention.
- The CAB is an unclassified presentation on radicalization and violent extremist recruitment designed to build awareness and understanding of violent extremism and to catalyze community efforts on prevention. The CAB has been presented to social service and mental health providers, school safety teams, public safety officials, and directly to community organizations in multiple U.S. cities over the past few years. It often serves as a catalyst for community-driven targeted violence and terrorism prevention awareness projects.
- How to request: To request an Awareness Briefing for your organization or community, please email OTVTP at CABBriefingRequests@hq.dhs.gov
OTVTP’s international, national, and interagency engagements range from formal engagements with organizations such as the Five Country Ministerial, the White House National Security Council, and the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), to informal meetings and conversations with Federal and private sector stakeholders and partners. OTVTP’s engagement efforts are guided by its engagement strategies for 14 unique sectors, including the technology sector, law enforcement, mental health and public health, cultural and religious organizations, and others.
- The Five Country Ministerial is a forum for security ministers of the Five Eyes (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States) to meet and collaborate on public safety measures and national security.
- The GIFCT is an organization that brings together governments, civil society, academic, and the tech industry to foster collaboration and information-share to counter terrorist and violent extremist activity online.
Digital Forums on Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention are events that enable communities to engage with specific sectors, and discuss innovative approaches to building resiliency in the digital space. Attendees engage with subject matter experts on digital platforms to learn how to improve, amplify, and promote quality content online. These events build the capacity of credible, local voices and foster community engagement with civil society members, academia, and leaders in the featured industry.
Prevention programs require a “whole-of-society” approach, which call for engaging all facets of a local community to prevent individuals from mobilizing to violence. Technology is critical to terrorism prevention and can support efforts at the community level to amplify messaging, assess risks, and inform reporting. The Digital Forums have shifted to virtual events, which enable presenters to reach a wider audience and allow the events to feature specific sectors and industries, including online gaming, health and well-being, religion and culture, and arts and entertainment.
- Digital Forum on Terrorism Prevention 1, Washington, D.C., September 2017
- Digital Forum on Terrorism Prevention 2, Palo Alto, CA, February 2018
- Digital Forum on Terrorism Prevention 3, Santa Monica, CA, November 2018
- Digital Forum on Terrorism Prevention 4; Pittsburgh, PA, September 2019
- Digital Forum on Terrorism Prevention 5: Virtual event, September 2020
Addressing Terrorist Use of the Internet (TUI)
Social Media CAB
- The online training course, “Countering Terrorists Exploitation of Social Media and the Internet,” was developed by the U.S. Government’s domestically-focused Countering Violent Extremism Task Force Developed and the UK Government’s Home Office. The approximately two-hour training is designed to educate staff at startup or moderately-sized technology companies about how terrorists may seek to exploit their platforms. It may also be an informative resource for content moderators at the leading social media companies.
- This narrated course includes videos and images of official and unofficial terrorist media products along with quizzes to test knowledge. The course also highlights initiatives where governments and industry have worked either together or independently to counter this threat. Significant progress has already been made to date in countering terrorist exploitation of social media and the internet. This briefing will encourage additional thinking about how to continue collaboration on this issue.
- With 300 hours of content uploaded to content service platforms every minute, it is a challenge for companies to identify and remove or block terrorist content, especially smaller companies with limited resources. The training examines the online activities of ISIS, al Qaeda, and these two groups’ supporters, as well as white supremacist extremists.
Digital Literacy Toolkit
OTVTP is in the process of developing a Digital Literacy Toolkit that aims to educate the public on understanding and reading digital content with a focus on critical thinking and source judgement. This training, used alongside the Digital Forums, will consist of practical tools to improve safe social media practices.
OTVTP participates in the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT)’s “Positive Interventions” sub-working group of the Content-Sharing Algorithms, Processes, and Positive Interventions (CAPPI) working groups which aims to build dialogue across industry, government, and civil society about the tech sector’s use of automation, as well as best practices on positive online-to-offline interventions.
- Fiscal Year 2020 Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program: Congress provided $10 million for grants to support state and local organizations to develop capabilities that prevent targeted violence and terrorism. DHS will award these funds on a competitive basis to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments; nonprofits; and institutions of higher education. The funding will result in the creation of sustainable prevention capabilities. Additional information will appear on the TVTP Grant Program page as more information is available.
- Fiscal Year 2016 Countering Violent Extremism Grant Program concluded performance in 2019. DHS evaluated the awarded projects for positive indicators of outcomes and identified six models for replication in other jurisdictions. Over 80% of projects are being sustained in part or in whole, permanently enhancing prevention capabilities in the communities they served. DHS has cataloged promising practices and lessons learned from the program which will be incorporated into future prevention grant programs. For more information, please visit FY 2016 Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Grant Program.
OTVTP uses Regional Prevention Coordinators (RPCs) to provide educational and technical assistance to the whole-of-society, to establish and expand Local Prevention Frameworks that reduce the risk of targeted violence and terrorism. The OTVTP Field Operations team accomplishes its mission by:
- Building partnerships and trust through stakeholder engagement and by convening prevention-focused networks in communities.
- Increasing awareness through briefings that inform communities of the targeted violence and violent extremism problem and the importance of local prevention frameworks as the solution.
- Supporting intervention networks of local mental health and social service programs to top individuals on a pathway to violence, by addressing risk and protective factors and providing long-term support.
A RAND study observed the field staff program has significant impact on the communities it served, with significant increases in terror prevention programs where field staff were-- or had been-- present.
Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request
The President’s FY2021 Budget strengthens the DHS prevention and protection missions. Nearly two decades after the attacks of September 11th, the United States faces an increasingly complex and evolving threat of terrorism and targeted violence. Through better informing, empowering, and equipping our citizens and our state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) authorities, as well as our private sector, non- governmental, and community leaders, we will enhance the safety of our nation.
The full text of requested program enhancements for DHS Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention and Protection efforts can be found here.
2019 DHS Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence
The DHS Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence explains how the Department will use the tools and expertise that have protected and strengthened the country from foreign terrorist organizations to address the evolving challenges of today. The third goal of the DHS Strategic Framework, titled “Prevent Terrorism and Targeted Violence,” lays a significant marker for DHS in the prevention space by identifying a series of actions that serves as the workplan for OTVTP.
2018 National Counterterrorism Strategy
The 2018 National Counterterrorism Strategy emphasizes the importance of prevention in countering terrorism. The Strategy states that it "prioritizes a broader range of non-military capabilities, such as our ability to prevent and intervene in terrorist recruitment, minimize the appeal of terrorist propaganda online, and build societal resilience to terrorism."
Putting an end to all forms of targeted violence and terrorism, including violent white supremacy, requires a “whole of society” approach, predicated on continuous dialogue and coordination with public and private stakeholders at both the national and local level. Public awareness and engagement is key to prevention.
OTVTP maintains a list of current resources about violent extremism as well as examples of effective tools and programs to build strong and safe communities. This information will be updated as it is published and produced.
OTVTP also maintains a collection of archived resources that encompasses previously implemented programs, frameworks, and research.
Contact the Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention
To request an Awareness Briefing for your organization or community, please email OTVTP at firstname.lastname@example.org
For all other inquiries, please contact TerrorismPrevention@hq.dhs.gov.