The ever-changing threat from terrorism and violence inside our nation's borders is no longer confined to our largest cities, with the recent attacks in San Bernardino; Orlando; St. Cloud; and Seaside and Elizabeth. ISIS has inspired lone wolf attackers whose acts of terror and hate have resulted in death and destruction; the current threat environment is serious.
Local law enforcement officers are critical to the nation’s ability to reduce violent extremism, prevent terrorist acts within the United States, and respond quickly when an incident does occur. In every domestic terrorist attack, it is the brave men and women of local police departments and other first responders who are on the ground responding to what has occurred, saving lives, and working with federal and state authorities to investigate, track down, and apprehend the individuals responsible for these horrific crimes of terror.
Local police departments don’t have the funding, training, or equipment to protect our country from terrorists, and terrorists are no longer just targeting the United States’ largest cities. Like the COPS program, funding for homeland security grant programs that support local capabilities to prevent and respond to terrorist incidents have been cut by approximately 50 percent, since they began in 2004. Last year, for example, only 28 metro areas received support through the Urban Area Security Initiative program, down from 64 in 2010.
Current homeland security programs and under-resourced, misaligned and do not necessarily reflect the increased threat from radicalized, lone-wolf terrorists. America relies on more than 1.3 million active-duty personnel and a trillion dollar annual budget to protect national security internationally; yet on the home front the FBI's national terrorism task forces includes just 4,000 local, state, and federal officers.
With the increased threat of terrorism, we also need new ways to ensure close collaboration between local and federal agencies. We need strong, well-resourced local departments that can be eyes and ears on the street, and we need local police officers literally to be in the room so that local and federal authorities -- including the FBI, ATF, DEA and U.S. Marshals -- can share information in a continuous, timely, and reciprocal manner.