DHS’ $20 Million Initiative: Aiding Communities or Encroaching on Civil Liberties?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently allocated $20 million to a diverse range of institutions, including universities, mental health providers, youth services organizations, schools, churches, and state law enforcement agencies.

The purpose? To identify potential ‘extremists’ within the American populace and intervene before they tread down a path of violence.

This funding comes from the DHS Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3), a program initiated in fiscal 2020. To date, CP3 has awarded $70 million in grants to private nonprofits, state, and local government agencies.

The program’s mission is to strengthen our nation’s ability to prevent acts of targeted violence and terrorism.

CP3 adopts a public health-informed approach, bringing together various stakeholders, including educators, faith leaders, social service providers, nonprofits, law enforcement, and other community partners.

The aim is to address systemic factors that can lead to violence while bolstering protective factors at the local level that support community safety, well-being, and resilience.

However, there are concerns about the program’s focus.

Critics argue instead of concentrating on actual terrorists or drug cartel members who infiltrate our country with harmful intentions, the program seems more intent on surveilling law-abiding Americans.

This specifically includes Americans whose political or social views may be deemed ‘dangerous’ by the government.

Administered by DHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), this program is the only federal grant initiative solely dedicated to helping local communities develop and strengthen their capabilities in this area.

However, the vague language used in the abstracts for each grant recipient raises questions about the program’s transparency and accountability.

The 2023 grant program has outlined several priorities.

These priorities include implementing prevention capabilities in small and mid-sized communities, and advancing equity in awards, engaging underserved communities in prevention.

Also involved are addressing online aspects of targeted violence and terrorism, preventing domestic violent extremism, and enhancing local threat assessment and management capabilities.

Among the recipients of these grants are several universities and organizations with diverse projects.

For instance, Boise State University will develop digital products to support human rights education, while the New York Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management will advance Threat Assessment and Management (TAM) teams across the state.

However, critics argue there are more effective ways to prevent mass shootings and violence, such as posting armed guards in front of schools and other “gun-free zones,” examining the role of psychotropic drugs in treating young people, and addressing the nation’s moral decay.

They contend it’s easier to distribute millions of dollars to groups with a political bias against a significant portion of the U.S. population.

As this program unfolds, it is crucial for citizens to stay informed and vigilant about how their tax dollars are being used and whether these initiatives truly serve the best interests of American communities.