Federal authorities have no way to measure whether years-long efforts to combat violent extremists have proven effective, according to a new government oversight report that is prompting calls for the Trump administration to scrap Obama-era efforts to downplay the threat of radical Islamic terrorists in its counter-terrorism operations.
A years-long investigation by federal oversight officials has determined the U.S. government has failed to establish any method to determine if the Obama administration's Countering Violent Extremism plan, or CVE, has had any tangible impact on the U.S. fight to prevent terror attacks.
The CVE program, a creation of the Obama administration, has long come under criticism by national security experts and lawmakers for its intentional efforts to downplay the threat of Islamic radicals and instead focus on activities by far-right extremists and others. President Donald Trump has criticized these omissions and vowed to revamp counter-terror efforts so they name and target Islamic terrorists.
While the federal CVE program has suffered from disarray for some time, federal investigators have concluded that, since its inception, authorities across the government have failed to establish "a process by which to evaluate the effectiveness of the collective CVE effort," according to the report.
"The CVE Task Force was established in part to evaluate and assess CVE efforts across the federal government, but has not established a process for doing so," the report found.
At this point, CVE programs have not been implemented to combat the rise of extremism is U.S. prisons and cannot produce evidence that authorities are learning from past attacks, according to the report.
"The federal government does not have a cohesive strategy or process for assessing the overall CVE effort," the report concludes.
Federal investigators with the Government Accountability Office were "not able to determine if the United States is better off today than it was in 2011 as a result of these tasks," according to the report, which confirms criticism of the program made by lawmakers and others over the years. "This is because no cohesive strategy with measurable outcomes has been established to guide the multi-agency CVE effort."
As the CVE program continues to suffer from an inability to gauge its effectiveness, the number of terrorism plots in the United States has only increased. The Trump administration in the past several months have either arrested or convicted a growing number of individuals tied to Islamic terrorists and extremists fighting in Syria.
One senior congressional source familiar with the matter told the Washington Free Beacon that the latest report is damning and confirms the fears of many. The Obama administration's efforts to equate Islamic extremists with domestic groups have been wholly ineffective, the source said.
"This report proves what we long suspected: that the Obama administration's CVE programs are completely ineffectual," the source said. "It also demonstrates why President Trump is right to take new steps, including extreme vetting, to protect our homeland. We need measures that actually keep us safe—not these misguided CVE operations aimed only at creating the illusion of security."
During the past five years of CVE efforts, "the federal government has not developed a cohesive strategy among stakeholder agencies that provides measurable outcomes to guide the collaborative implementation of CVE activities," according to the latest report.
Recent efforts by the CVE Task Force, an organization meant to assess these activities, have not provided federal agencies with any sort of guidance, "specific direction," or "measures to identify successes and gaps in the implementation of their activities."
As late as 2015, the Department of Homeland Security admitted "that its CVE efforts were scattered across a number of components and lacked specific goals and tangible measures of success," the report notes.
The failure to develop and implement a coherent strategy has left the CVE effort without an overarching strategy.
"Absent a cohesive strategy with defined measureable outcomes, CVE partner agencies have been left to develop and take their own individual actions without a clear understanding of whether and to what extent their actions will reduce violent extremism in the United States," the report concludes.
Patrick Poole, a veteran national security analyst and reporter, said that the latest findings about CVE prove the program has been a failure.
"But this GAO report itself is problematic in that it adopts a nebulous and highly suspect definition of terrorism that coincidentally comes from CVE industry," he said. "The problem with that is it bears no resemblance to the legal definition of terrorism under federal law."
Kyle Shideler, director of the Center for Security Policy's Threat Information Office
Center, told the Free Beacon that the GAO's conclusions justify the criticisms made by opponents of the CVE program.
"The GAO has now confirmed what CVE critics said from day one, which is that the government's Countering Violent Extremism effort is a fraud, and has always been a fraud," Shideler said. "They note that after five years and all manner of government effort there is absolutely no evidence that CVE reduces the likelihood of radicalization, or makes the American people safer."
"The time has come for the Trump administration to say enough is enough, let's stop spending good money after bad, and put our money and manpower into catching would-be terrorists, not coddling them," Shideler said.