WASHINGTON, DC - Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, highlighted the importance of hearing and learning from current government officials about the magnitude of the domestic terrorist and violent extremist threat and how the Biden administration is working to address and combat these threats at the second hearing this week to examine the persistent and concerning threat posed by domestic terrorists and violent extremists.
Senator Portman has been a leader in the Senate in combating domestic terrorism and violent extremism. Last year, Senator Portman and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced that President Trump signed their bipartisan Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act into law. This legislation authorizes $75 million annually for five years, from FYs 2020-2024, for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). Senator Portman helped double the amount of funding available for the NSGP in the FY 2021 bipartisan funding agreement that was signed into law late last year.
In addition, in June, Senator Portman and Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced the bipartisan Pray Safe Act to establish a federal clearinghouse through which faith-based organizations and houses of worship could access information on safety and security best practices, available federal grant programs, and training opportunities. The legislation passed out of the Committee last month.
A transcript of his opening remarks can be found below and a video can be found here.
“Thank you, Chairman Peters. I appreciate you holding this hearing and continuing our discussion, which we began on Tuesday about the persistent threat of domestic terrorism and violent extremism. As I said earlier this week, these threats are affecting communities all across the country and I want to be sure that, as we go through these hearings, that we recognize that. They transcend racial, ethnic, and religious lines, and as we heard on Tuesday, significantly increased threats against members of law enforcement, military, and government. In fact, that was based on the data that had been compiled that we heard about on Tuesday. That was where most of the actual threats and acts had been committed.
“So, we have a problem and the internet, as Senator Hassan and a lot of our experts have pointed out, has exacerbated the problem. Both in terms of spreading disinformation and creating some of the conditions for violent extremism, but also in terms of organizing some of the hateful acts.
“On Tuesday, the witnesses highlighted many important points we will discuss today, including that virtually all domestic terrorists, inspired by a range of these ideological beliefs on the right and left, do use the internet and social media platforms to release propaganda, coordinate training, raise funds, recruit members, and incite violence here at home. The administration must be more transparent and provide the necessary data for us to have a comprehensive understanding of the current threat landscape. Something that was talked about a lot by all groups was information, data, having the facts. Going forward, we need to talk about solutions and areas where more Congressional action is needed to address these threats effectively. I think that was a conclusion. I think today we’ll talk more about solutions, which I think is very helpful.
“I also appreciated that multiple witnesses on Tuesday testified that the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program has been helpful to nonprofits who have applied for funds they can use to secure their facilities. We have worked hard in this Committee to authorize that program, to expand it. We’re pleased that we were able to get an authorization signed into law last year. The data shows that despite the expansion of the program, there are many states that are not taking full advantage of it and the tools that it provides. So we are committed to ensuring that those states, nonprofits, and religious institutions are not just aware of the program, but using it, to utilize it to protect themselves from the increasing threats.
“I was also pleased to hear witnesses express on Tuesday support for the Pray Safe Act that I authored and introduced with Senator Hassan, who is here this morning. This is the legislation that creates the federal clearinghouse, that I think is as important, maybe more important than the funding. It is to be sure that people have access to information on safety, on best practices in the security realm, available federal grant programs, including the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, and training opportunities. I hope we can get that legislation passed, it’s already been reported out of this Committee.
“That said, it is clear that more does need to be done. Determining what solutions and tools are needed requires us to hear not just from the private entities, but of course from current federal officials responsible for understanding and addressing these threats. Next month, the Committee is planning its annual threats hearing, at which I expect domestic terrorism and violent extremism will play a significant role. Hearing from government officials on what the administration is doing to combat these threats is something I think is overdue. And I hope we’ll hear from them.
“In the interim, I am pleased that today we will be hearing from a former government official, in addition to subject matter experts and some of the community leaders being most affected by these threats.
“I appreciate the witnesses being here today. I look forward to hearing their testimony and particularly your recommendations on how Congress can do a better job in responding to these threats and improve our federal efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism in this country. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”