Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is resisting the pleas of State Department officials to spend nearly $80 million allocated by Congress for fighting terrorist propaganda and Russian disinformation.It is highly unusual for a Cabinet secretary to turn down money for his department. But more than five months into his tenure, Tillerson has not issued a simple request for the money earmarked for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, $60 million of which is now parked at the Pentagon. Another $19.8 million sits untouched at the State Department as Tillerson’s aides reject calls from career diplomats and members of Congress to put the money to work against America’s adversaries.
Hammond threw up objections to the request on multiple fronts, the former senior State official said. Hammond indicated to officials involved with the Global Engagement Center that with the department facing potential budget and staffing cuts, it didn’t make sense to take an infusion of new funds, the former senior State official said. Hammond also questioned why the U.S. doesn’t ask other governments, particularly in Muslim countries, to play a larger role in the information battle.Hammond further expressed hesitation about needling the Russians at a time when Tillerson was trying to find common ground with the Kremlin on sensitive matters such as the war in Syria.
“Congress has provided substantial resources to combat foreign propaganda, particularly from Russia. There is broad agreement that the U.S. Government is behind the curve on this threat,” said Portman. “Countering foreign propaganda should be a top priority, and it is very concerning that progress on combatting this problem is being delayed because the State Department isn’t tapping into these resources. The State Department should take swift action to fully fund the GEC and ensure that it is capable of carrying out the purposes Congress directed, particularly as they relate to Russia and other state-sponsored foreign disinformation.”“This is indefensible. Every day, ISIS is spreading terrorist propaganda and Russia is implementing a sophisticated disinformation campaign to undermine the United States and our allies. There should be no doubt these are critical challenges to our national security. My bill with Senator Portman finally set our country up to fight back. Congress did our part, now it’s up to the administration to pick up the ball and run with it,” said Murphy. “I strongly urge Secretary Tillerson to take this issue seriously and use the tools and resources he has at his disposal to stand up to our adversaries.”