A U.S. congressional panel approved a bill on Wednesday earmarking the first funds Congress has targeted specifically at programs to stop Islamic State and other militant groups from recruiting Americans, congressional aides said.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security panel, would devote $10 million per year for four years starting Oct. 1 to the Homeland Security Department.
The committee approved the bill by a voice vote, an aide said. It would need to be approved by the full House and the Senate before becoming law.
The funds are intended to help communities and government agencies develop programs to prevent radicalization and recruitment of Americans through the Internet and other channels.
During a session on Wednesday, the committee amended the original bill to include a grant program intended to fund efforts to “push back against extremist propaganda domestically,” a committee aide said.
The bill would set up a permanent “Office for Countering Violent Extremism” in the Homeland Security Department. At present, congressional and administration officials said the department has only a small office working on anti-extremist issues.
Until now, the officials added, even though both Congress and the administration of President Barack Obama have promised extensive federal government engagement in efforts to “counter violent extremism,” Congress has not set aside any money for it.
While government departments have sometimes used existing funds for anti-radicalization efforts, congressional aides said the government has at most 24 full-time employees working on it.
U.S. investigators say 80 percent of Americans linked to activities supporting Islamic State and other militant movements have radicalized themselves over the Internet without direct contact with militants abroad.
Officials have said U.S. agencies are pursuing hundreds of active counterterrorism investigations, which touch on all 50 U.S. states
Congressional aides said the State Department has set up a special unit to monitor propaganda, including social media messaging, by Islamic State and other militant groups and to craft messages intended to blunt the militants’ appeal.