Congress allocated an $80 million budget to fight terrorist propaganda and Russian disinformation despite pleas from Congress and career diplomats to tap into the funds that have already been allocated to the State Department.
But, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a highly unusual move, turned down the $80 million for his department. In fact, in his 5 month tenure, Tillerson has not issued a single request for the funds earmarked for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center: an interagency unit based at the Pentagon that was created in spring 2016 to fight propaganda and disinformation from sources around the globe including terrorists like the Islamic State, known for their deft handling of online propaganda, as well as to fight disinformation coming from sources such as North Korea, China and Russia.
According to Brett Bruen, a former U.S. diplomat in contact with State employees involved in the funding fight, “This is an extraordinary example of the dysfunction that is ripping through the State Department. What we’re seeing is a small group of people with very thin knowledge making all the decisions in a very centralized and isolated process. It causes unnecessary delays and confusion.”
According to another former senior State Department official, senior aide R.C. Hammond suggested the money was not welcome because any extra funds to fight Russian media influence would upset Moscow.
Tillerson’s despicable performance is a direct result of President Trump’s intention to slash the State Department’s budget, which has the Secretary of State scrambling to spend less money, which has disastrous effects on our foreign policy and presence.
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