US House members argue that the BBG is a defunct agency. So should it be restructured to fight today’s war of info?
In June 2013, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing on the current state of the Broadcasting Board of Generals. The title referred to the agency as being “defunct,” which is startling, especially when you consider it requested a 2012 budget of US$767 million.
Ed Royce (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, laid the groundwork for the debate in his opening statement:
In January, the State Department’s Inspector General depicted an agency with a dedicated staff attempting to serve in a dysfunctional structure. The BBG’s “dysfunction stems from a flawed legislative structure and acute internal dissension,” the report concludes, noting that a part-time board “cannot effectively supervise” operations. Indeed, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified to this Committee that the BBG “is practically a defunct agency in terms of its capacity to be able to tell a message around the world.” She went on to regret that “we’re abdicating the ideological arena.” I agree.
The stakes are very high. As we speak, governments around the world have stepped up efforts to influence opinion abroad and stifle dissent at home. In Pakistan, small local radio stations broadcast messages that promote extremism and incite violence. The fight against terrorism and other threats to our national security must include a fight against bad ideas. If done well, the payoff of broadcasting is tremendous.
With an “information war” underway, U.S. international broadcasting must be as sharp as ever. This includes the broadcast entities themselves. The former head of Radio Free Europe once summed‐up their mission this way: “irritate authoritarian regimes, inspire democrats, and create greater space for civil society.” Our goal here is to figure out how to do more of just that.
Witnesses in the hearing included three former Chairmen of the BBG: James K. Glassman, S. Enders Wimbush and D. Jeff Hirschberg.
You can watch the whole debate here: