Friday, May 25, 2012

Smith-Mundt Modernization Proposed For Department of State

HR 5736, Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 was introduced in the house by Representatives Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA). (See for the official text).

According to the Mountain Runner Blog (, a respected Blog in the area of Public Diplomacy, the proposed change would apply on to the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. 

The intent of the change is to remove the restriction on domestic access to public diplomacy (and other Department of State) materials to foster domestic awareness concerning public diplomacy messages and activities. Section 208 of the bill includes: “(b) Rule of Construction- Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors from engaging in any medium or form of communication, either directly or indirectly, because a United States domestic audience is or may be thereby exposed to program material, or based on a presumption of such exposure. Such material may be made available within the United States and disseminated, when appropriate, pursuant to sections 502 and 1005 of the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1462 and 1437), except that nothing in this section may be construed to authorize the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors to disseminate within the United States any program material prepared for dissemination abroad on or before the effective date of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012.”

Proponents argue that the American taxpayer has a right to know and see for themselves what their State Department is doing abroad with their money. The law is clear that it will only be prospective, that it will apply only to material produced after the law is effective. The proposed law is also intended to insure that the Department of State can engage globally without the legal impediment of a restriction against access to the information by domestic audiences.

The bill is clear that it concerns only State Department information and does not pertain to the Department of Defense. 

In previous posts I’ve argued that MISO personnel and equipment would very likely be pressed into service in major domestic incidents where there is a need to communicate/inform the local population and where there aren’t enough commercial or local resources can’t do the job. 

Normally this ‘voice of the CDR’ role would be undertaken by the PAO, but PAO lacks the means to do so.

Assuming Smith-Mundt adequately addresses the Department of State, then it would seem that other legislation that would address the Homeland Security aspects of MISO utilization. In some respects this would be analogous to an exemption under Posse Comitatus. Under Posse Commitatus military personnel can be employed for law enforcement – we need to exempt MISO from its domestic limitation so that it can be effectively employed in furtherance of Homeland Security.


Anonymous said...

MISO capabilities can be used to disseminate public information (not to conduct MISO) in support of designated lead Federal departments or agencies responding to natural disasters or security crises within the United States and its territories. It is known as Civil Authority Information Support (CAIS).

Soldier-Cynic said...

CAIS is an acronym without need. All we had to say was MISO can disseminate public information in support of domestic operations. Public information is a doctrinally defined term that did not need another acronym to satisfy our need to be special.

Support to military = MISO/PSYOP
Support to embassy = DSPD
Support to conus agencies = Public Information

Voodoo said...

And while all that is fine and dandy, the answer is not to further blur the lines between PAO and PO, but to give PAO the capacity to work in a tactical environment.

The fact is, units outside of PO have Loudspeakers - LRADs and Bullhorns are all over the place.

PAO should be creating the capability to reach domestic audiences in times of distress.

Or simply create the ability to task org PO to PAO for the express purpose.

The lines relegating PSYOP away from PAO need to be harder and clearer, if we are going to remain relevant and effective as we move further into the 21st c.