WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) issued the following statements on Monday after the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) signed a Memorandum of Agreement to operationalize the programs and priorities of the Global Engagement Center (GEC) to help counter foreign propaganda and disinformation. Portman and Murphy’s legislation, called the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, was signed into law in December 2016 as part of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report. The law improves the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation by establishing the GEC, an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government.
“Though long overdue, I hope this announcement is a sign that the Trump administration will finally start to make use of the tools Congress gave them to fight back against Russian disinformation and terrorist propaganda,” said Senator Murphy.
“This announcement is an important milestone in the development of an operational capability to counter foreign disinformation being waged against us by our foreign adversaries. For more than a year, I’ve been pushing State and DOD to fully execute the purpose and intent of this counterpropaganda law that Senator Murphy and I worked to enact,” said Senator Portman. “While long overdue, I’m pleased we now have a road map in place that operationalizes the GEC and details how the money will be spent and who is responsible for developing and executing these projects. It is time for the Department of Defense to fulfill the promise made by senior DOD leadership to provide the full $40 million in funding to support the GEC. Congress enacted legislation establishing the GEC more than a year ago, and the repeated delays are standing in the way of combatting a serious threat to our national security.”
The Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act authorized the State Department to request $60 million annually for two years from the Department of Defense for the GEC to help counter the foreign propaganda and disinformation being waged against the United States and our allies by state and non-state adversaries. But despite clear evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Trump administration failed to meaningfully address this serious national security threat. Murphy continuously called on the Trump administration to take action.
Murphy is the author of “Rethinking the Battlefield,” a comprehensive proposal containing specific recommendations to dramatically increase the United States’ non-military footprint abroad by nearly doubling the U.S. foreign affairs budget – including the State Department and USAID – with an emphasis on funding for international development, additional foreign service officers, anti-corruption efforts, countering propaganda, crisis response, and humanitarian relief.