Acknowledging a room filled with terrorism scholars and distinguished government officials for their steadfast efforts in counterterrorism research and practice, Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Principal Deputy Counterterrorism Coordinator and Senior Advisor, John Cohen, gave the keynote address at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism's (START) Annual Meeting last week.
More than 75 Consortium members attended the meeting.
During his talk, Cohen expressed his gratitude for the work of START researchers in providing tools and knowledge for understanding violent extremism both abroad and here in the United States.
"What all of you do is critically important to what I do. You help make my life easier, which is something that I am grateful for," Cohen said.
"You are helping those who have to develop operational policy solutions for very significant and complicated problems."
Elaborating on the critical gap that START research helps to fill in the otherwise operationally focused counterterrorism community, "You help answer the question: 'Why?'"
In Cohen's keynote, he recognized the work of several researchers, including the recent report by Stevan Weine that identified three main risk factors that, when combined, increased the potential for violent extremism in Somali-American youth in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
He also recognized a report by Gary LaFree and Bianca Bersani that mapped terrorism incidents to the county-level within the United States for four decades, finding that 30 percent of all terrorist attacks occurred in five U.S. counties.
"The point is, in the world that I live in, knowledge is everything," Cohen said. "It is understanding today what we need to know tomorrow."
Cohen coordinates the development and implementation of Department-wide counterterrorism operational activities and programs, to include those associated with detection and prevention of, response to, and recovery from acts of terrorism in the United States.
He has an extensive background in homeland security law enforcement operations and policy development. In 2004, he was elected by the National Journal magazine, as one of the 100 key people in homeland security.