Washington, D.C.— The U.S. State Department’s counter-propaganda office, the Global Engagement Center (GEC), has announced a partnership with the Pentagon that infused the organization with an additional $40 million in funding to go “on the offensive” in an ongoing information war.
The @StateDept is pleased to announce a new partnership with the @DeptofDefense for initiatives to counter propaganda & disinformation from foreign nations. @UnderSecPD said the transfer of funds announced today reiterates the U.S. commitment to the fight. https://t.co/oT1ffDZU7R
— Department of State (@StateDept) February 26, 2018
According to the State Department, included in this partnership is an initiative that creates “an Information Access Fund to support public and private partners working to expose and counter propaganda and disinformation from foreign nations.”
“Under the Information Access Fund, civil society groups, media content providers, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, and academic institutions will be eligible to compete for grants from the GEC to advance their important work to counter propaganda and disinformation,” read the agency’s statement.
The State Department highlighted that in addition to maintaining a defensive posture in the ongoing information war, the United States must go “on the offensive.”
“This funding is critical to ensuring that we continue an aggressive response to malign influence and disinformation and that we can leverage deeper partnerships with our allies, Silicon Valley, and other partners in this fight,” Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein said. “It is not merely a defensive posture that we should take, we also need to be on the offensive.”
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While the U.S. has a history of operationalizing propaganda campaigns overseas to influence global perception and advance American interests, the Smith–Mundt Act of 1948 outlawed the dissemination of propaganda, meant for a foreign audience, to American citizens.
However, in 2013, an amendment to the bill, known as the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, which was contained within the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013, modified the law that essentially re-allows propaganda— produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) for foreign dissemination— to be made available for consumption by the U.S. public, although US officials have been vague as to whether propaganda is currently being aimed at American citizens.
In addition, the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act was quietly signed into law at the end of 2016 as part of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report, which aimed to “increase the authority, resources, and mandate of the Global Engagement Center to include state actors like Russia and China as well as non-state actors.”
According to a press release from Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), co-sponsor of the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act:
The first priority is developing a whole-of-government strategy for countering THE foreign propaganda and disinformation being wages against us and our allies by our enemies. The bill would increase the authority, resources, and mandate of the Global Engagement Center to include state actors like Russia and China as well as non-state actors. The Center will be led by the State Department, but with the active senior level participation of the Department of Defense, USAID, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Intelligence Community, and other relevant agencies. The Center will develop, integrate, and synchronize whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign disinformation operations by our enemies and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.
Second, the legislation seeks to leverage expertise from outside government to create more adaptive and responsive U.S. strategy options. The legislation establishes a fund to help train local journalists and provide grants and contracts to NGOs, civil society organizations, think tanks, private sector companies, media organizations, and other experts outside the U.S. government with experience in identifying and analyzing the latest trends in foreign government disinformation techniques. This fund will complement and support the Center’s role by integrating capabilities and expertise available outside the U.S. government into the strategy-making process. It will also empower a decentralized network of private sector experts and integrate their expertise into the strategy-making process.
In a report about the infusion of funding to the Global Engagement Center, Daniel McAdams, writing for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity noted:
The State Department’s “counter-propanda” office, the “Global Engagement Center” has recently had its budget doubled by a $40 million cash transfer from the Pentagon. What does this mean? The US government will do much more meddling in the internal affairs of foreign countries with the excuse that it is “countering” unproven Russian meddling in the US elections and political life. Much of the money will go to NGOs that toe the US government line and act as force-multipliers for US neocon propaganda. The project is an assault on non-interventionists in the US.