DHS shifts focus of funding to counter violent extremism

(CNN)The Department of Homeland Security is cutting some organizations out of grant money to counter violent extremism — including nearly a dozen that the Obama administration considered worthy of receiving the funds.

The department announced the revised list of 26 recipients for the $10 million in total grant money last week, excluding 11 organizations that the Obama administration had designated to receive funding, which aims to foster community-based solutions to countering terrorist recruitment and radicalization.
One such organization is Life After Hate, which the Obama administration told just before leaving office in January would receive $400,000 to expand its outreach and intervention services for former white supremacists and others in the “criminal underground.”
    Then-DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson highlighted the group’s mission, rehabilitating former neo-nazis and other domestic extremists, in the announcement on the first round of funding, calling such efforts a “homeland security imperative.”
    But last week, the group got a generic letter from the administration saying its funding had been rescinded, its executive director and co-founder, Sammy Rangel, said.
    “We felt like the rug had been pulled out from underneath us,” he told CNN. “As an organization, it’s crippling” to lose that much anticipated funding.
    “We’re dealing with life-and-death issues,” Rangel said. “We saw what happened in Portland, the Sikh temple, Dylann Roof,” referring to the killings of minorities by white perpetrators over the last several years. The loss of funding sends the wrong message and “might embolden the people we’re trying to help,” he said.
    Rangel said his group wasn’t informed of the reasons the Trump administration revoked the grant, and an inquiry to DHS has gone unanswered.
    The Muslim Public Affairs Council, which among other things works to ensure that mosques aren’t used by terrorists for recruitment, is another group that lost funding. It said in a statement that it was told it “did not meet the criteria of working with law enforcement to counter violent extremism.” MPAC also said it is “considering all legal options in light of these changes.”
    In July 2016, nonprofits, higher education institutions and state and local governments were invited to submit ideas for two-year projects focusing on key areas targeted by the grants, including “developing resilience,” “training and engaging with community members,” “managing intervention activities,” “challenging the narrative,” and “building capacity of community-level nonprofit organizations.”
    The desired programs would provide “resources to support programs, projects, and activities that prevent recruitment or radicalization to violence by interrupting those efforts, building community-level resilience, identifying the early signs of radicalization to violence, and providing appropriate interventions through civic organizations, law enforcement or other entities,” the grant opportunity statement read.
    DHS spokesperson David Lapan told CNN that the changes in grant recipients were due to a review of applicants based on “other factors and information” that differed from the initial evaluation.
    “The Department considered whether applicants for CVE awards would partner with law enforcement, had a strong basis of prior experience in countering violent extremism, had a history of prior efforts to implement prevention programs targeting violent extremism, and were viable to continue after the end of the award period,” Lapan said. “These additional priorities were applied to the existing pool of applicants. Top scoring applications that were consistent with these priorities remained as awardees, while others did not.
    Almost all of the new grant recipients are law enforcement entities.
    The changes follow reports that President Donald Trump was considering doing away with the CVE program entirely. In February, the administration sought to build a new approach centered on Muslim extremism, seeing the refusal to focus the program on radical Islamic extremism as needlessly “politically correct,” a source told CNN at the time.

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