Last weekend's tragic mass shootings in Texas and Ohio have re-focused the country's attention on domestic terrorism. Political leaders continue warning of the threats posed by immigrants and religious minorities, but right-wing extremists born on US soil have been responsible for launching more attacks and killing more Americans than foreign terrorists have for almost two decades now.
Yet, as the number of deadly assaults increase, the Trump administration has cut funding for government agencies created to fight domestic terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has drastically decreased funding and staff dedicated to fighting deadly homegrown extremism, in favor of ramping up its anti-immigration efforts.
“This administration has shown that they are minimizing the issue of domestic terrorism,” said former DHS analyst Daryl Johnson to VICE News. “At a time when we have heightened activity and the body count keeps rising, training is being defunded and grant money taken back.”
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Under the current administration, funding for programs targeting right-wing radicals like those responsible for the recent shootings has been cut. The funding for these programs has been re-allocated to new initiatives that target immigrants, refugees, Muslims, and other minority groups.
“The government in fact has reduced resources to counter domestic terrorism, leaving our communities vulnerable to the next inevitable tragedy,” said George Selim, former head of the DHS Office of Community Partnerships (OCP), to Congress, VICE News reported. In the final year of the Obama administration, the OCP received $21 million in funding. The current administration cut the budget down to $3 million, reducing its staff from 16 employees and 25 contractors to just 8 employees.
The OCP was created to fund community efforts to end extremism on a local level. The agency distributed grants to organizations like Life After Hate, a group that helps people leave white supremacist groups. “I think those grants are important,” said Mary McCord, former DOJ national security official, to VICE News. “The federal government is never going to be truly successful in countering violent extremism without help, because anything with the words ‘US government’ slapped on it is going to be suspect in the community.”
Last year, the government spent $18 million — the same amount Trump cut from the OCP — on seizing and destroying cannabis plants. This funding was granted to the DEA's Domestic Cannabis Eradication and Suppression Program (DCE/SP), a program that has been finding and destroying pot farms since 1981. Much of the program's funding was reportedly used to help California destroy its thriving black market, but the DEA apparently doesn't even know where all of its money goes, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Even though the multimillion dollar DCE/SP budget seems extreme, it actually pales in comparison to other government funding excesses, VICE News unveiled. Just last September alone the Department of Justice spent $21 million on furniture. In just two months of 2017, the DHS and the Department of Defense spent $14 million on security details accompanying Trump's golfing vacations to Mar-a-Lago. That same year, the DHS gave another $14 million to a consultancy firm just to hire two border patrol agents.
It seems unlikely that the current administration will change its stance on fighting right-wing extremism, but next year, the country will have a chance to elect leaders who realize that domestic terrorism is far more serious than cannabis prohibition.