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Learning Agenda

Priority Questions Related to Strategic Goal 2: Keep Our Country Safe

Keeping our country safe through a wide range of strategies and tools remains one of the highest priorities of the Department of Justice.

The Department will build evidence on a range of topics supporting all its objectives under this broad strategic goal.  Threats to national security continue to evolve both in scale and in kind, and the FBI has assessed that lone actors now constitute the greatest terrorist threat to the United States.  Several of the Department’s highest priorities for evidence building involve developing richer understandings of the processes by which lone actors are radicalized or adopt extremist beliefs that motivate them to terrorism.  Developing evidence-based strategies for detecting and countering these processes is essential.  Thus, two of our priority questions focus on countering radicalization that occurs through social media and countering both online and offline forms of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation.

The Department works to protect public safety in a wide variety of ways, ranging from investigations to cutting-edge prosecutions to grants for community-based interventions and victim services.  We have identified an equally broad set of critical topics for evidence building, all of which have the potential to help maximize the effectiveness of these many strategies and tools.  A richer understanding of current and persistent drivers of violent crime, for example, will enable us to optimize our use of resources both at the federal law enforcement level and at the grantmaking level.  Evaluation of the large-scale Project Safe Neighborhoods program will help to optimize its implementation and identify specific evidence-based strategies for combating violent crime in districts around the country.  Other priority questions in this area will enable us to optimize our use of resources for other forms of investigation, prosecution, litigation, and grantmaking.  In particular, we will seek to understand barriers to accessing victim services, especially any barriers that have disproportionate impact on underserved or hard-to-reach populations.

Several priority questions focus on increasing and improving the reporting of crimes, threats, and hostile activities to law enforcement.  Building evidence on why victims and others do not always report to law enforcement will enable us and our partners to take steps to increase reporting – for example, by removing administrative obstacles or addressing concerns that might prevent individuals and organizations from reporting.  Improved reporting would provide us and our partners more complete information with which to counter threats to national security, combat terrorism, and enhance cybersecurity.

Priority Questions:

  • What are the obstacles preventing victims of hostile activities that target U.S. national assets from reporting crimes to law enforcement, and how can these obstacles be addressed to increase reporting?
  • What is the role of social media in the radicalization of individuals, and how can the Department best counter such radicalization consistent with First Amendment and privacy rights?
  • How can the Department best address inconsistent terrorism incident reporting across national, state, and local authorities?
  • What are the most effective strategies for identifying, countering, and building resistance to online and offline forms of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation that contribute to extremist beliefs and terrorist activity?
  • What are the drivers of recent increases in violent crime, and which are likely to persist as our nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Which district-level strategies under Project Safe Neighborhoods are most effective in reducing violent crime, and how can the Department most effectively implement this program in fidelity with the evidence-based comprehensive violent crime reduction strategy?
  • What characteristics of grantees are predictive of success in effectively implementing community-based interventions to reduce violent crime?
  • What are the most effective ways for the Department to increase private sector reporting of cyber incidents and threat information?
  • How can the Department most effectively recruit, train, and retain cyber-skilled staff to meet the evolving cyber threat?
  • What notification, messaging, and outreach strategies are most effective in hardening cyber defenses across private sector and government?
  • What is the most resource-effective approach to disrupting and dismantling the drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) that are fueling the opioid and substance-abuse epidemic?
  • Which criminal justice processes and victim service programs are most effective in addressing the needs of crime victims across different settings or contexts (e.g., programs embedded in criminal justice agencies, community-based programs)?  Which best address the needs of underserved and hard-to-reach communities?  What are the barriers to accessing these programs, and do they disproportionately affect traditionally unserved or underserved populations?