Foreign nations including China and Russia along with the Islamic State are conducting information warfare against the United States and the federal government is ill prepared to counter it, information warfare experts told Congress on Wednesday.
“To date, there is not a single individual in the U.S. government below the president of the United States who is responsible and capable of managing U.S. information dissemination and how we address our adversaries in the information environment,” said Michael Lumpkin, until recently the director of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center that seeks to counter online terrorist propaganda.
Lumpkin, a former Navy SEAL and former Pentagon special operations policymaker, said bureaucracy, conflicting and unclear legal authorities, and lack of resources are major impediments to U.S. information warfare programs.
Matthew Armstrong, a former government broadcasting official and specialist in propaganda, said the failure of U.S. news media have helped Russia’s propaganda reach deep into the U.S. public.
Armstrong said he was informed by a Russian official that Moscow’s state-run RT propaganda cable network would have no market in the United States if U.S. news media were doing its job. “I think there’s some legitimacy to that,” he said.
“Today, Russia, China, and the so-called Islamic State lead prominent efforts to ‘subvert, to confuse, and to divide’ their opposition while the West, and the United States in particular, remains largely unarmed in this struggle for minds and wills,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said Russia and Chinese propaganda outlets freely operate in the United States while U.S. media and official broadcasts are blocked in those countries. Reciprocity is needed, he said.