Editor’s Note: The Washington, DC ecosystem is abuzz with think tanks and policy makers looking into the threat of disinformation across the globe and seeking new techniques to counter foreign influence. Below is a round-up of recent developments of interest to IPA members.
House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Requires DOD Report on how MISO supports Whole of Government Messaging
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense passed its version of the FY 2021 Defense Appropriations bill last week. Among the priorities called out in the Subcommittee’s report, which leaked late last week, is a requirement for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict to submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on Military Information Support Operations (MISO) activities for the individual geographic combatant commands justified by the main pillars of the 2018 National Defense Strategy. The report, which should be submitted no more than 15 days after submission of the FY 2022 President’s budget request and annually thereafter, would include spending plans for both voice and Internet activities and how those activities are coordinated with the Intelligence Community and the Department of State. The Committee also would direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict) to submit to the congressional defense committees, not later than 90 days after the end of the fiscal year, an annual report that provides details on each combatant command’s MISO activities by activity name, description, goal or objective, target audience, dissemination means, executed funds, and assessments of their effectiveness.
The Subcommittee noted that MISO activities have shifted from countering Violent Extremist Organizations to countering peer and near-peer adversaries like China and Russia, who use social media and other methods to weaken domestic and international institutions and undermine U.S. interests. The Committee intends to gain a better understand of how the DOD’s MISO activities support a “whole of government” approach to messaging in support of the National Defense Strategy.
“The Committee recognizes the efforts and accomplishments of the United States Special Operations Command and other agencies within the executive branch to operate in the digital domain. However, it is difficult to view individual agency activities as a coordinated whole of government effort. Over the past several years, the classified annex accompanying annual Department of Defense Appropriations Acts included direction focusing on the individual activities of geographic combatant commands. However, information messaging strategies to counter Chinese and Russian malign influences cuts across these geographic boundaries and requires coordination between multiple government agencies using different authorities.”
DARPA Launches Reverse Engineering of Deceptions Program
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) released a new opportunity under its Artificial Intelligence Exploration (AIE) program seeking innovative basic research concepts for the reverse engineering of deceptions (RED). The goal of RED is to develop techniques that “automatically reverse engineer the toolchains behind attacks such as multimedia falsification, adversarial machine learning (ML) attacks, or other information deception attacks.”
DARPA plans to award $1 million per prototype project through Other Transactions (OTs). Proposals are due no later than July 30, 2020 at 12:00 pm ET. The RED opportunity can be found on beta.sam.gov under “DARPA-PA-19-03-09.”
CSIS Online Event: Countering Chinese Influence Activities in Australia
Following the release of a comprehensive analysis of Chinese and Russian Influence Efforts in Europe and the Indo-Pacific, CSIS is hosting an online event on Wednesday, July 15, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. EDT featuring the Honorable Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia. The event is sponsored by the Global Engagement Center at the U.S. Department of State.
Registration to watch the event is available here.
More evidence that new ideas are rare. The same report on MISO was required in the mid-2000s by the House Appropriations Cmte on operations worldwide and was required to include details on each individual program. The report went on for 60-70 pages, as I recall. I believe I edited at least two years of that report before the ‘requirement’ was conveniently forgotten. We’re no closer to having a coordinated USG information effort to achieve economic or security objectives than we were 15 years ago apparently.