It seems that the Obama Administration might be turning a corner in the way it views interagency roles for strategic communication. The president’s updated National Framework for Strategic Communication, which was recently made public by the blog MountainRunner, suggested that the Administration is making a new effort to address the agency gap between authorities and resources:
“We have taken a more hands-on approach to ensuring coordination of resources across agencies. Even in areas were DOD has more resources, we have worked to integrate the skills and perspectives of civilian officers and our Embassies into the deployment of these resources.”
But the real news comes next:
“Similarly, where DOD runs public-facing websites, we have developed closer coordination with State on editorial oversight and content selection.”
These websites—which include Infosurhoy, Magharebia, Mawtani, and SETimes—have been at the center of the debate surrounding the military’s encroachment on what have typically been civilian public diplomacy activities as the Pentagon has taken increasing responsibility for delivering the American message abroad in recent years. (DOD’s public-facing websites are also part of the military’s “Information Operations,” which has drawn fire for activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, and most recently sparked controversy over the apparent targeting of two reporters who published criticisms of the program.)
Calling for civilian editorial oversight of military messaging for foreign audiences is an important step, but whether the move will be meaningful will depend on whether it bears a commensurate transfer of resources and real authority for State.