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Senators welcome DHS’ CVE appointment, but say more effort needed

Janet Napolitano

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s appointment of an official to oversee the department’s counter violent terror efforts is welcome, but the leaders of the Senate Homeland Security Committee said they needed more information on how the department is handling violent extremism.

Napolitano told the senators in a Sept. 30 letter that John Cohen, principal deputy counterterrorism coordinator and senior advisor to the secretary, had been directed to serve as DHS lead and primary point of contact on counter violent terrorism (CVE) issues. She also said the department had established a Counterterrorism Advisory Board (CTAB) to coordinate DHS’s operational and programmatic efforts to prevent and protect against foreign and homegrown terrorist attacks. The CTAB will coordinate DHS’s CVE efforts, she said.

CVE efforts are aimed at preventing domestic terrorism, including assessing violent extremism’s threat to the nation and within specific communities;  backing and supporting community-based programs and strengthening relationships with communities targeted by violent extremists; and disrupting and deterring recruitment or individual radicalization through local law enforcement programs.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Committee Joe Lieberman, (I-CT) and ranking member Susan Collins, (R-ME) commended Napolitano in an Oct. 7 letter for appointing Cohen, but said they needed more information on CVE efforts across the Obama administration.

“We thank the Secretary for taking this step to ensure an aggressive and integrated campaign by the Department against violent Islamist extremism,” Lieberman and Collins said in a joint statement on Oct. 7. “But we hope this is not her final action in this area. Although John Cohen has performed well in his current position, we do not know yet if an official who is not accountable to Congress through the confirmation process - will be effective in coordinating the DHS effort to counter violent Islamist extremism.  We also need a better understanding of the resources – offices, programs, personnel, and funding - dedicated to the effort. And we need to understand how the Department will measure success.

“Finally, we stand firm in our belief that a single official is needed to coordinate activities against violent Islamist extremism across the entire Administration. We will continue to push the Administration toward this goal.”


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