Based on research conducted from 2014-16, this study reviews the Obama Administration’s multi-faceted initiative to prevent domestic violent extremism, which was launched in August 2011.
For this study, the Obama initiative is called “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE). This study’s conclusions are based on a nationwide survey of U.S. Attorneys regarding their CVE activities, interviews with key stakeholders at the federal agencies involved in implementing the CVE Initiative, interviews with federal law enforcement officials in local U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI Field Offices, and focus groups of Muslim Americans regarding their views of federal CVE efforts and related issues. An analysis of data and information gained from these efforts led researchers to three main conclusions. First, the CVE Initiative was beginning to gain momentum toward its goal of preventing domestic violent extremism prior to its termination by the Trump Administration in 2017. Second, despite the need to adopt a prevention approach to domestic terrorism, the Obama Administration faced many structural and societal barriers that undermined the CVE’s efforts. Third, the CVE Initiative was flawed in ways that undermined its effectiveness and ability to be sustained in the transition to a new administration. Based on the study’s findings, this report concludes that the CVE Initiative was a “proof of concept” that developed slowly and was beginning to make progress by early 2017. It was not possible at that stage to determine whether CVE was effective in achieving its objectives; however, the need for such a nationwide effort to prevent domestic violent extremism is evident in this time of polarizing political and ideological views. Core principles and actions for mounting such an effort are outlined, with attention to the role of the federal government.