Aug 15, 2007

Congress Holding Up Funds For Strategic Communication

We're talking about "chicken feed" for the DOD here. Yikes!

Before lawmakers left for the summer recess earlier this month, two key congressional defense committees recommended cutting funds for an effort at the Defense Department to implement what officials there call strategic communication.

That term describes concerted communication programs aimed at helping the military "understand and engage" what Pentagon officials consider key audiences worldwide, according to DOD budget documents released in February. The idea, the documents state, is to "advance national interests and objectives through the use of coordinated information, themes, plans, programs and actions synchronized with other elements of national power." ...

In the defense budget request for fiscal 2008, DOD wants $3 million for a line item called “strategic communication and integration.” The item is part of the request for the office of the undersecretary of Defense for policy. According to military officials and DOD budget documents, the Pentagon needs the money to pay for the implementation of about 60 objectives identified in the strategic communication road map.

But the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee inserted language into the emerging defense bills for fiscal 2008 that would deny funds for the effort.

House Appropriations Committee members cited procedural issues for declining the money, describing the request as an “unsupported program initiation” in their July 30 report on their version of the fiscal 2008 Defense appropriations bill.

The Senate committee said the components of strategic communication -- public diplomacy, public affairs and information operations -- should be practiced separately. “Any attempt to integrate them could compromise the integrity of each of these functions,” senators wrote in their June 5 report accompanying their version of the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill. ...

Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Communication Integration Group, oversees the implementation of the road map. He declined to say what effect a lack of funding would have on the DOD’s strategic communication effort because both bills are still in a preliminary stage and have not been passed. “We want to see it funded so we can continue to execute the road map,” he said in an Aug. 2 interview.

Debate on the fiscal 2008 Defense appropriations and authorization bills is expected to continue when lawmakers return to Washington after Labor Day.

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