Armed Services Committees Authorize Funds and Activities for State Department information operations (Updated)

If you haven’t read the National Defense Authorization of Act for Fiscal Year 2010 that came out of conference this week – and I’m guessing you haven’t – then you may have missed a potential precedent.

The Armed Services Committees of the House and Senate this week authorized $55 million for the State Department for what amounts to information operations (or call it public diplomacy, strategic communication, or global engagement). This is not so-called “1207” funding that allows Defense to transfer money to State for security and stabilization – there is another $100m (or more) of security and stabilization money the SASC/HASC direct DOD to transfer to State – nor is it, for the wonk in you, “1206” or “1208” funding. This is a direct authorization for State (and BBG if you prefer to separate them out) for specific activities.

The appearance of these authorizations in the Senate bill back in July took many by surprise. This could create questions over accountability of funds and confusion over guidance by adding more cooks who generally do not confer much and speak different language in this kitchen.

The big question is whether the authorities will be funded. This is unlikely considering neither the House or Senate defense appropriators have included this in their pre-conference bills. However, the Armed Services Committees created an opportunity for the defense appropriators to send a significant message. Whether the appropriators take that opportunity is to be seen.

Continue reading “Armed Services Committees Authorize Funds and Activities for State Department information operations (Updated)”

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.

Continue reading “Defense and Strategic Communication: what did Congress ask for before the recess?”