Defense and Strategic Communication: what did Congress ask for before the recess?

Much has been made of made of Congressional concerns over the Defense Department’s role in strategic communication and as the de facto leading public diplomat in policy, engagement, and personnel. At first the lack of informed media coverage – and shallow or error-filled when it exists – is ironic considering the subject, but there it is part of a trend when considering that in general public diplomacy and the laws governing it are also subject to misinformation and misinterpretation (PDF, 140kb).
When The Washington Post reported on July 28 on the House Appropriations decision to slash $500 million from the estimated Defense budget request for strategic communication programs – for 10 (ten) programs which should have been “IO” (information operations) programs, a minor difference – Walter Pincus mentioned requests from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees (HASC and SASC, respectively) that preceded the House Appropriations – Defense Subcommittee (HACD) action. For your reference, the actionable items for the Defense Department in the area of strategic communication from the reports of the HASC, SASC, and HACD are below.

HASC Report 111-166 on NDAA FY2010 (June 18, 2009)

  • “encourages the Commander to develop and demonstrate innovative techniques and capabilities, with respect to relevant linguistic and cultural expertise, and increase both guidance and response linkages between strategic communications and operations” (p364)
  • “directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report on the assessment of the Department’s strategic communications workforce to the congressional defense committees within 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act. The report should include the following [6] elements…” (p374)
  • “encourages the Department to conduct a legal review of the applicability of Public Law 80-402 [Smith-Mundt Act] and its intersection with Department of Defense policy guiding online media operations” (p377)
  • “The committee is encouraged by the amount of effort that the Department of Defense has focused on cultivating social science expertise to support defense missions… The committee supports the greater development of in-house capacity to take advantage of increasing social science methods in order to reduce dependencies on contractors or academics on the battlefield.” (p233)

SASC Report 111-35 on NDAA FY2010 (June 25, 2009)

  • “awaits delivery of the report on strategic communication and public diplomacy activities of the Federal Government required under section 1055 of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009” (p183)
  • “directs the Under Secretary of Defense–Policy and Under Secretary of Defense–Comptroller to develop budget documentation materials for fiscal year 2011 that clearly articulate and document DOD’s objectives and funding levels for strategic communications and public diplomacy” (p183)

House Approps Report 111-230 on NDAA FY2010 (July 24, 2009)

  • “[submit] a report to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate on the Department’s IO programs. This report should encompass the period from fiscal years 2005 through 2010 and include all Department of Defense information operation programs for which base budget, supplemental, or overseas contingency operation funds have been appropriated or requested. The report shall include: program strategies, target audiences, goals, and measures of effectiveness; budget exhibits at the appropriations account and sub-activity level; spend plans (including positions and other direct costs); and production and dissemination mechanisms and locations. The report shall also include an annex for the inclusion of necessary explanatory and supporting classified information. The Secretary shall submit this report in writing not later than 180 days after enactment of this Act.” (p68)