Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan responded to a report Tuesday that an initiative focused on targeted violence and terrorism prevention has about a quarter of the staff and an eighth of the budget of a similar program in the Obama administration. “We need to invest more — no question,” McAleenan said Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.”
“I’ve asked Congress for an out-of-cycle budget request to help bolster it and increase our reach and capability. But it doesn’t cover the level and scope of effort across the Department of Homeland Security enterprise,” McAleenan said, adding the Secret Service reaches out to communities about what threat indicators to look out for and the department provides active shooter training to cities around the country.
There have been more than 250 mass shootings so far this year in the U.S., more than the number of days in the year thus far. At least 31 people were killed and scores were hurt in two mass shootings last weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
The DHS chief said ideally he’d like to triple the staff available to better address the rise in attacks and “coordinate the intelligence side of it at the headquarters level as well as investing in those grants and efforts that are going to help communities prepare for these kind of incidents.”
McAleenan said his agency is acting aggressively to address mass shootings after President Trump gave his agency clear marching orders to locate the root cause of these events.
“I’ve also directed a surge of all of our training and preparedness assets on a risk basis to communities across the country based on what we know,” McAleenan said. He said DHS had also established an advisory council and created task forces to develop a better understanding of these attacks across the country.
In El Paso, some members of the Hispanic community suggested Mr. Trump’s rhetoric has contributed toward acts of hatred. Asked about the president’s rhetoric, McAleenan said, “I think we’ve got a responsibility to call out hate in all of its forms, and white supremacist extremism is a critical element that we’re trying to address. I think the president was very clear on that yesterday.”
In a nationally televised address Monday on the shootings, the president said the gunman was consumed by racist hate, and Mr. Trump condemned white supremacy. He also blamed mental illness and hate for the attacks, not guns.
McAleenan’s comments come just after the FBI issued a new warning about domestic terror threats, saying “violent extremists could become inspired by these and previous high-profile attacks to engage in similar acts of violence.”
The DHS chief agreed with that assessment, saying over the last two years, a “number of their investigations are racially motivated and within that category the majority are white-supremacist-extremist motivated.”
Meanwhile, the Justice Department said it was treating the El Paso shooting as domestic terrorism after the 21-year old suspect, who is accused of killing at least 22 people, allegedly wrote a racist essay in which he denounced the increasing Hispanic population in Texas.
McAleenan said that the Texas shooting hit home for him because members of the Customs and Border Patrol agency, which is a part of DHS, were in the Walmart where the shooting happened.
“We actually had one of our leaders, a port director … in the Walmart during the attack. She responded and provided lifesaving assistance to one of the injured victims and just tremendously proud of her and her response,” McAleenan said.
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