National Defense Authorization Act and Strategic Communication, Propaganda, and the SCMB

The defense authorization conference report passed last night with provisions related to Strategic Communication, referred to as Public Diplomacy by some tribes, but not all. The following comes from the Joint Explanatory Statement to accompany S. 3001, the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009.

Reports on strategic communication and public diplomacy activities of the Federal Government (sec. 1055)

The House bill contained a provision (sec. 1074) that would require the President to submit to Congress a report on a comprehensive interagency strategy for public diplomacy and strategic communication efforts for the Federal Government.

The Senate bill contained no similar provision.

The agreement includes the House provision with a clarifying amendment. We note that numerous studies from independent commissions, the Government Accountability Office, and the Defense Science Board have indicated a lack of clearly articulated strategic goals for the Federal Government's efforts at strategic communication and public diplomacy. Taken as a whole, these studies point to deficiencies in the U.S. approach to this mission that have not been adequately addressed by previous strategies, or by any other official government initiative. For example, these studies indicate that the Federal Government's approach to strategic communication and public diplomacy has not been effective enough at garnering greater participation from the private sector, academic institutions or other non-governmental organizations. We commend the establishment of the Global Strategic Engagement Center at the Department of State, but note that its role within a whole-of-government approach to strategic communication and public diplomacy still needs to be further clarified.

“Strategic communication and public diplomacy”... the NDAA conference report didn’t, and wouldn’t, define either. To some, PD is a subset of SC. To others (including me), they are synonymous as everything we say and do, as well as what we fail to say and do, has an effect. I this the fissure between the two is based largely on the modern perception of public diplomacy based on the last few decades of beauty contests rather than the full spectrum psychological struggle for minds and will that preceded and has more relevance to our requirements today than the engagement model of the 1980’s.

Back to the NDAA, Rep. Paul Hodes’s (D-NH) broad brush and knee-jerk reaction needs, thankfully, clarification, but it’s not adequate.

Prohibitions relating to propaganda (sec. 1056)

The House bill contained a provision (sec. 1075) that would prohibit the use of Department of Defense funds for propaganda purposes not specifically authorized by law. The Senate bill contained no similar provision. The agreement includes the House provision with a clarifying amendment. We intend the term "publicity or propaganda", as used in the provision, to have the meaning given to such term in decisions of the Government Accountability Office on this subject.

The Strategic Communication Management Board was not adopted.

The House bill contained a provision (sec. 1031) that would require the Secretary of Defense to establish a Strategic Communication Management Board to provide interdepartmental and interagency coordination for Department of Defense strategic communication efforts.

The Senate bill contained no similar provision.

The agreement does not contain the provision.

While the SCMB didn’t make it, permission to establish an advisory panel to improve coordination between DOD, DOS, and USAID did.

Standing advisory panel on improving coordination among the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the United States Agency for International Development on matters of national security (sec. 1054)

The House bill contained a provision (sec. 1071) that would require the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to jointly establish an advisory panel to review the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the USAID on matters of national security and make recommendations to improve collaboration and coordination.

The Senate bill contained no similar provision.

The agreement contains the House provision with an amendment allowing the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the Administrator of the USAID to jointly establish an advisory panel to advise on ways to improve coordination among the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and USAID on matters relating to national security, including reviewing their respective roles and responsibilities.

Side note: the report also prohibits contractors from interrogating detainees.