Castro, Lieu Question Why State Department Funds For Countering Election Meddling Are Unspent
Mar 6, 2018
Washington, D.C.–Today, Congressmen Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Ted Lieu (CA-33) urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to explain why the State Department has not used any of the resources Congress allocated with bipartisan support in 2017 to counter foreign propaganda designed to influence elections and undermine democracies. In the letter, the Congressmen ask the Secretary why State has not enacted Congress’s bipartisan directive to address foreign disinformation campaigns.
In the letter, the Members write:
• As you know, Section 1287 of the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act authorized the Global Engagement Center (GEC) at the Department of State to lead the U.S. government’s efforts to identify, expose and counter foreign state disinformation efforts aimed at undermining U.S. national security interests. The provision also authorized the transfer of $120 million from the Department of Defense to support this effort. This effort grew out of bipartisan, bicameral legislation introduced by members of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees which specifically highlighted the threat of Russia.
• According to the New York Times, the Department under your leadership has failed to spend a single dollar towards this effort. These reports also indicate that the Department has chosen not to adequately staff the GEC. Alarmingly, not one of the 23 analysts speak Russian, the language of one of the top sponsors of disinformation campaigns in the world. Following the Intelligence Community’s assessment that the Russian government engaged in a coordinated campaign to interfere and undermine U.S. elections in 2016, it is simply a dereliction of duty to ignore this threat.
• From Russia’s actions in Ukraine to election interference in the United States’ elections and those of our allies, foreign disinformation campaigns do more than simply spread anti-Western sentiment. Such campaigns manipulate public perception to change the facts on the ground, subvert democracy and undermine U.S. interests. The Department’s lack of spending for the GEC is yet another example of the Trump administration’s failure to use the tools Congress provides to adequately respond to Russia’s 2016 election interference and counter its efforts to subvert our upcoming elections in November.
Read the full text of the letter here.
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