Mark your calendar for January 13, 2009.
That is the confirmed date for “The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948: Past, Present, and Future”, a symposium to discuss the sixty-year old law that continues to set the parameters of America’s international engagement.
The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 was passed as we were beginning a “war of ideology… a war unto death,” as our Ambassador to Russia at the time described it. But, beginning in the 1970’s, instead of promoting international engagement through information, cultural and educational exchanges, the law has been distorted into a barrier of engagement. From propaganda and counter-propaganda intentions, it became an anti-propaganda law for reasons that had little to nothing to do with concerns over domestic influence.
It is time to put the law into its proper context, especially in today’s information environment, is essential. We’ve seen the Defense Department step up to fight the information fight. The State Department has begun to do the same under the leadership of Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Jim Glassman. The keynotes given by both Under Secretary Glassman and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mike Doran demonstrate the interest in and the importance of this event.
The symposium is set for January 13, 2009. It will be in DC and open to the public. There will be no registration fee, but registration will be required. The details on registration and the location will be forthcoming.
There will be four panels plus two keynotes. The panels will be 90-minutes each and structured to encourage discourse and audience Q&A rather than monologue and PowerPoint.
The first panel examines the history of Smith-Mundt. The second panel, tentatively named “America’s Bifurcated Engagement,” looks at the present-day impact of the law. The third, “Limiting the Arsenal of Persuasion,” looks at a future with Smith-Mundt. The fourth panel, “What to do and How,” focuses on legislative issues.
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The organizer and point of contact for this event is Matt Armstrong.