Lawmakers slash budget for Defense Department’s information ops

Congress is slowly but surely trying to get the Pentagon to cut back on its overseas information operations, most of which end up being done by contractors.

The latest hint has come from the House Appropriations Committee, which has sliced about $125 million from the $300 million that was being sought in the fiscal 2012 Defense Appropriations Bill for what is now known as Military Information Support Operations (MISO).

Several years ago, when Congress first paid attention to this subject, it was called Strategic Communications and it was said to have been costing around $900 million. That figure then dropped to above $600 million. The programs were then designated as Information Operations and then, last year, MISO.

The funding has covered a variety of programs including media analysis, billboard advertising, news articles, television programs and advertising, and more recently Web sites and online chat rooms.

But some lawmakers have expressed skepticism about the programs.

“The Committee remains concerned that many of the activities being conducted under the guise of ‘information operations’ or ‘military information support operations’ do not represent traditional or appropriate military roles or responsibilities,” the panel wrote in a report. “Many of the activities being funded under information operations are duplicative of, or operate at cross purposes with, other federal agencies’ activities, particularly the Department of State.”

Exactly how the remaining funds are to be used under the House committee’s plan remains classified. While the administration requested that the $300 million be used for both base and overseas funding, the panel said in its report that the entire amount is to be used in overseas operations.

Walter Pincus reports on intelligence, defense and foreign policy for The Washingon Post. He first came to the paper in 1966 and has covered numerous subjects, including nuclear weapons and arms control, politics and congressional investigations. He was among Post reporters awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.
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