Lawmakers seek clarification on $5 billion counterterrorism fund

A proposed $5 billion counterterrorism fund by the White House that would be used to train allied countries to eliminate elements of al-Qaida or organized terrorism came under scrutiny last week by multiple legislators.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he supports the concept but needs to hear more about how the program would work. He said the committee is determining if the program would interfere with other initiatives that have similar objectives, Homeland Security Newswire reports.

"We're looking at that question," Menendez said, according to Homeland Security Newswire. "We're also waiting for some briefings to take place. We'll make that determination then. I've got to hear the totality of the program to understand what it is."

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the capacity to support American allies in the fight against terrorism is already in place. Critics pointed to multiple programs established under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006 that were established to build foreign military capacity to conduct stabilization and counterterrorism operations.

Edward Price, the assistant press secretary and strategic communications director for the White House's National Security Council, said the proposed program is meant to allow the U.S. to more effectively train, equip, advise and assist allies against terrorism.

"This program is envisioned to build upon the excellent cooperation between state and defense and would incorporate existing tools and authorities that have proven instrumental in our counterterrorism efforts to date," Price said, according to Homeland Security Newswire. "The charge that it would undermine such coordination is absolutely false."

Price said it was premature to address questions regarding the mechanics of the proposal because the program remains subject to coordination with Congress, Homeland Security Newswire reports.