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.

Friday, May 18, 2012

MISO In the Hot Seat

On Thursday, 17 May 2012 USA Today reported that “House panel calls for serious cuts to propaganda spending” (See:
  The article points out:
1.       MISO programs are “essentially marketing efforts aimed at persuading foreign audiences to support U.S. interest, though Pentagon officials acknowledge that little proof exists about their effectiveness.”
2.       Programs are allegedly poorly tracked (although this is improving).
3.       U.S. sponsorship of messages is often hidden because of the U.S.’s lack of credibility in the region.
4.       The Pentagon IG is investigating Leonie Industries the principal contractor for the MISO program.
5.       There are several Congressmen, Rep Hank Johnson (D GA) and Norm Dicks (D WA) who are active in criticizing the program and seeking to block additional funding for ‘propaganda efforts’.

What does all this mean to us in the Community?

First of all it’s clear that ‘we’ have done a terrible job helping Congress and other elected officials understand what we do. For a craft that prides itself on communication, this is a sad state of affairs. Of course I realize that serving military personnel are limited in what they can do or say, however, the Army maintains a Congressional LNO ( which is tasked with this responsibility.

Perhaps LTG Mullholland should pick up the phone and have a serious chat with the GO in charge to insure that the proper information is flowing to Congress. It would also be appropriate for non-serving Community members to engage their elected representative as I’ve advocated previously. (Photo source:,%20John%20%28Class%20A_large%29.jpg)

However, I’m afraid there is no substitute for being there. The action is in DC and that’s where the education campaign needs to be centered.

Stepping down off the soap box – as an attorney I’ve learned that “truth is the absolute defense” if you can prove it of course. No doubt MISO efforts have generated some success in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Surely not at the level of the Battle of Midway, but some tangible success that can be documented or perhaps shared via video. 

I feel it would be appropriate for the Group CDR to work together to produce a YouTube Video that shows how, why and where MISO has worked. This video could form the basis to help educate elected officials and others.

In parallel, ‘we’ need to be developing metrics of effectiveness that can help document our successes and convince our customers and funders that we know what the heck we are doing.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Shoe Maker’s Children and MISO

Imagine my surprise when I say today’s (10 May 2012) Frontpost in my e-mail box talking about how the World Wide MISO Conference scheduled for Tampa, FL from 4 – 8 June needs 100 registrants by COB 15 May or it will be cancelled.

I find it absolutely amazing that a PSYOP, excuse me MISO Conference, is short attendees, and that they are raising the red flag a mere 5 days before the cutoff is being made.

As an old proverb once said “The shoemaker’s children are often barefoot.”

Nevertheless, if you would like to attend – the Agenda looks very worthwhile and it is clearly an opportunity to network with the Community, here’s the link to register: If you would like to attend, but don’t have Intelink access, you can contact MAJ Kevin Myers at:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

President Obama: PSYOPer-in Chief

I have to give credit where credit is due. The President is a PSYOPer par excellence. He and his people understand the incredibly complex world of Social networking and how to harness the power of a system in transmit messages.

This is not a political endorsement, but rather an opinion based on the following story.
I smoke cigars and I like them. I subscribe to Cigar Aficionado magazine. The editorial page asked that interested parties sign a petition at the White House concerning premium cigars. (Check out: The White House website of course asks that you registered and provide a valid e-mail address in order to electronically sign the petition. All of which seems reasonable under the circumstances – so I do and think nothing of it.

Yesterday, 1 May 2012 I’m working on the computer and an e-mail pops up inviting me to watch the President’s speech live from Afghanistan:

Frankly, I’m speechless at this point so when 1630 rolls around I click on the link and whammo – there’s the President!

Now it’s clear to me that the President understands the power of persuasion, makes me wonder why the administration doesn’t have as a cohesive a US information engagement strategy as the President seems to have for his personal communications.