Propaganda Versus the Power of the Purse

The U.S. Congress is alarmed at the Pentagon's "information operations" programs, including efforts to win "hearts and minds" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House Appropriations Committee criticized the Defense Department's fiscal year 2010 budget request for including "alarmingly non-military propaganda, public relations, and behavioral modification messaging." The committee noted that spending on 10 "strategic communications programs" has skyrocketed from $9 million in 2005 to a "staggering $988 million request for fiscal 2010." The committee responded by cutting $500 million from the Pentagon's strategic communications budget and threatening to withhold more funding until Defense Secretary Robert Gates informs the committee about their "target audiences, goals, and measures of effectiveness." The Senate Armed Services Committee also asked the Pentagon for additional information on its "objectives and funding levels for strategic communications and public diplomacy" for 2011. Meanwhile, the House Armed Services Committee slammed the Pentagon's strategic communications planning as "insufficient," and directed Gates to report on "the skills needed, both military and civilian personnel on hand who are capable, and the number of contractors being used." However, the House Armed Services Committee also called the Pentagon "overly cautious" in trying to keep propaganda from U.S. audiences, saying its "online strategic communications" should be expanded, "even if they can be accessed in the United States."