During this episode, Matt Armstong, who was formerly a Governor on the Broadcasting Board of Governors (since renamed the U.S. Agency for Global Media), discusses the Smith-Mundt Act and public diplomacy. Matt is also the author of the upcoming book: The Right to Know: the War of Words and the Origins and Evolution of the Smith-Mundt Act. Also known as the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, Smith-Mundt was developed to regulate broadcasting of programs for foreign audiences produced under guidance by the State Department, and it prohibited domestic dissemination of materials produced by such programs. The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 allowed for materials produced by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for Global Media to be available upon request within the United States. Matt makes the case that, ironically, there is a significant amount of disinformation related to the Smith-Mundt Act itself and asserts that there’s a gross misunderstanding of the role of information in our foreign policy. Coupled with general risk aversion and a lack of vision for what tomorrow should look like, the United States appears to be lacking a sense of urgency. As just one example, the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs position–essentially the chief international information operations officer of the State Department–has been vacant 40% of the time since 1999.
Books and Other Web Links:
Guest Bio: Matt Armstrong is a former Governor of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, now the US Agency for Global Media, a former executive director of the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, and is a PhD student at King’s College London writing on the US’s failure to institutionally oppose Russian political warfare, 1945-1965.
About: The Information Professionals Association (IPA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to exploring the role of information activities, such as influence and cognitive security, within the national security sector and helping to bridge the divide between operations and research. Its goal is to increase interdisciplinary collaboration between scholars and practitioners and policymakers with an interest in this domain.
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