The new guidance directed by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was announced by FEMA to state and local officials in a briefing last week, an administration official said.
The agency, often associated with storm and emergency relief efforts, plans to increase funding for states and cities to focus on the pursuit of domestic extremist groups, doubling down on the agency’s efforts to combat domestic extremism, a FEMA source told CNN.
“There is an urgency and a priority coming directly to the interagency that was not there under the Trump administration” when it comes to the focus on domestic extremism, a DHS official told CNN, adding that individual agencies were working on the issue at the operational level, but there was “no real leadership” coming from the top.
“January 6 was a wake-up call. The government is taking this extremely seriously,” the official said.
“Since 2002, DHS has allocated more than $54 billion to states and territories to prevent and prepare for the threats that terrorist organizations pose. Almost 20 years later, the homeland security threat environment has evolved. As the threats evolve, so, too, must the grant programs intended to prepare communities for those threats, a FEMA spokesperson told CNN.
The fiscal year 2021 grant program details will be publicly released next Thursday, according to the spokesperson.
During his first weeks in office, Mayorkas made it clear to officials in the department, as well as outside groups, that combating domestic violent extremism is a top priority, according to several officials.
DHS is considering additional operational improvements to combat domestic extremism, such as, expanding training, providing technical assistance to local jurisdictions for threat assessment investigations, and developing strategies to combat the influence of false online narratives, according to the administration official. Initiatives are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
DHS counterterrorism strategy
At the time, McAleenan called White supremacist extremism one of the most “potent ideologies” driving acts violence in the US.
“To see the insurrection, the horrific acts of January 6, were not only personally devastating, but created in me a commitment 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,” Mayorkas said.
The most significant terrorism threat currently facing the nation comes from lone offenders and small groups inspired by domestic extremist beliefs, including those based on false narratives spread on online and through social media, a DHS spokesperson told CNN.
In the first weeks of the Biden administration, John Cohen was appointed as the DHS coordinator for counterterrorism and the Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism & Threat Prevention. Cohen previously served in the Obama administration as DHS’s counterterrorism coordinator and the former acting under secretary at the department.
Sam Vinograd, a former CNN national security analyst, recently joined the department as a senior counselor for national security.
A rattled department
The complaint is still under investigation.
The DHS Office of Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) was established under the Trump administration as part of a rebranding that focused prevention efforts on all forms of violence, regardless of the ideological motivation.
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez and Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.