Congressman Stephen F. Lynch, the Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, urging him to combat foreign disinformation and propaganda campaigns using funds that were allocated to the State Department for that purpose.
In 2016, the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) was allocated $120 million over two years to counter foreign efforts to threaten U.S. national security and interfere in U.S. elections. The Center, however, has yet to spend any of the allocated funds.
“In order to combat Russian and other foreign interference in future U.S. elections, Congress in December of 2016 expanded the mission and mandate of the Global Engagement Center (GEC) within the State Department to ‘counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts’ that threaten our national security as well as the national security interests of U.S. allies and partners,” wrote Congressman Lynch. “Regrettably, the State Department has failed to maximize its use of these critical resources.”
According to a recent report by The New York Times, the State Department “has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy” and “not one of the 23 analysts working in the department’s Global Engagement Center – which has been tasked with countering Moscow’s disinformation campaign – speaks Russian.” This is despite assessments by the U.S. intelligence community that Russian President Vladimir Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election” and that “Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide.”
Efforts to meddle in U.S. elections were also detailed in a February 16, 2018 federal indictment against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations. The indictment detailed a widespread campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election that included identity theft, bank and wire fraud, and illegal political advertisement purchases.
“During a February 6, 2018 interview with Fox News, you cautioned that Russia is already undertaking attempts to interfere in the upcoming 2018 U.S. federal elections,” Congressman Lynch wrote to Secretary Tillerson. “You also stated, ‘I don’t know that I would say we are better prepared, because the Russians will adapt as well.’ The full use of the authority and resources at the disposal of the State Department for the purpose of countering foreign interference in our elections would significantly enhance our ability to address this continuing national security threat.”