“In the almost 20 years since September 11, 2001, the terrorism threat landscape has changed considerably,” Mayorkas said in a statement, referring to the terrorist attacks that led to the creation of DHS. “Today the most significant terrorist threat facing the nation comes from lone offenders and small groups of individuals who commit acts of violence motivated by domestic extremist ideological beliefs.”
“While we continue to lawfully protect against threats posed by foreign terrorist organizations, we also must ensure adequate focus and funding is provided to combat domestic terrorism, some of which is motivated by false narratives and extremist rhetoric spread through social media and other online platforms,” Mayorkas added.
The money, part of a larger $1.87 billion pool of grant funding to help state and local governments face threats and emergencies, will “help raise the nation’s security baseline,” according to Mayorkas. The grants for domestic violent extremism will fund programs aimed at “open source analysis of threats, execution of threat assessment programs, the development and sharing of intelligence across states and between states and the federal government, and the development of training and awareness programs,” he said.
DHS in recent years has begun turning its attention inward to pay more attention to threats from hate groups, homegrown extremists and violent racists. The 2019 mass shooting in El Paso — the deadliest attack on Hispanic Americans in modern U.S. history — was a catalyzing event for department officials.
DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis was one of the federal agencies that did not alert federal law enforcement agencies to plans by pro-Trump groups to storm the U.S. Capitol and attempt to prevent a presidential transition.
Pressure from lawmakers on DHS to do more has increased since then. While the FBI remains the lead federal agency for investigating domestic extremist groups and stopping attacks, DHS officials want to leverage relationships with state and local police departments formed after the 9/11 attacks to produce better threat reports and promote preventive strategies.
A week after Biden’s inauguration, DHS used its National Terrorism Advisory System for the first time to alert the public to the risk of attacks by domestic groups, citing “a heightened threat environment across the United States.”
In 2019, DHS created the Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention, which has hired regional coordinators across the country to help state and local governments identify violent extremists and try to stop them from recruiting and radicalizing others.
During recent hearings on Capitol Hill, many Republicans have joined Democrats in calling for DHS to increase its focus on homegrown extremists, though lawmakers have clashed over priorities. Republican members say Democrats were unwilling to condemn violent protesters and anarchists during clashes last summer on the streets of Portland, Ore., where DHS agents and officers were sent to protect federal buildings.
Many Republicans have insisted federal agencies should prioritize all homegrown violent extremists regardless of ideology, while Democrats note FBI data showing white supremacists have been responsible for more American deaths.