Citing an April 2013 report (which has yet to be released to the general public), Congress “calls for the end of the $22 million Trans Regional Web Initiative” according to USA Today (see: http://www.usatoday.com/story/nation/2014/01/02/trans-regional-web-initiative-defense-bill/4291467/). Overview of the solicitation for the services can be found at: https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=408762b903dfc1df112bceda5b9aa149&tab=core&_cview=0
Essentially Combatant Commanders (COCOM) such as the Central Command (CENTCOM) and Pacific Command (PACOM) developed websites which were intended to directly support the COCOM CDR’s initiatives in the region. The General Account Office (GAO) asserted in its report that these efforts were not effective partially because they were not well coordinated with other US (read that State Department) efforts.
This strikes me as a good decision.
From what I can tell, most successful influence population efforts have been bottom up. This is particularly true in situations where the countries in question are rural, tribal and/or heavily illiterate as is the case in Afghanistan. Top down campaigns orchestrated by 4* Commands through intermediaries is not likely to be very effective.
If the Trans Regional Web initiative was targeted against high level officials, the elite, diplomatic corps, academics, etc. then it was a battleship seeking to destroy a row boat – meaning that the website is not the optimal nor most cost efficient means to reach that audience.
I have often lamented the lack of a National Influence Strategy and this most recent debacle confirms the need for such a document as guidance to DOD and the Department of State for them to harmonize their influence efforts.
Another interesting angle is the ineffectiveness of US Public Diplomacy ultimately rests with the President and the Secretary of State, perhaps the Republicans will latch on to this as a plank in their platform to defeat the Democrat’s most likely Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State.
Photo: Africom by keyword from www.africom.mil