The prestigious SWJ Blog featured an important IO/Public Diplomacy article ” What the SecDef Didn’t Call For, But Should Have” by blogriend Matt Armstrong of MountainRunner. Matt is bringing one of those critical but obscure inside-baseball variables into the light of public view and out of the realm of government lawyers and interagency staff meetings.
“In his clarion call to revamp the current structures of government to meet modern threats, Mr. Gates sidestepped an obstacle that has been misinterpreted and misapplied over the last three decades: Public Law 402: United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, commonly known as the Smith-Mundt Act. Despite popular belief, the restrictions the Act is known for today were not designed or intended to be a prophylactic for sensitive American eyes and ears.
Understandably, Mr. Gates did not suggest revising the “anti-Goebbels” act, even if it is misunderstood (while his Department firmly believes themselves to be covered by the Act, a source tells me outgoing Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes was not aware of this until a few short months ago). Smith-Mundt has shaped the content and methods of communications from State and Defense through institutionalized firewalls created along artificial lines, fostering a bureaucratic culture of discrimination that hampers America’s ability to participate in the modern struggle over ideas and managing perceptions.
Simple communications models of the 1940’s have been replaced by global networks of formal and informal media. Perception overcomes fact as deliberation by both the consumers and producers of news shrinks to almost nothing. Too often, by the time the truth comes out, the audience and media have moved on. How America participates in this new world is central to the success of Mr. Gates’ proposed reorganization”
Go read the whole thing…and give a shout out in the SWJ Blog comment section.