November 6, 2013
The Pentagon may expand its system of propaganda websites aimed at various audiences around the world despite attempts by Congress to kill the program, Special Operations Command documents released Tuesday show.
Tampa-based SOCOM has opened up a search for potential contractors to run the command's Trans Regional Web Initiative, a collection of news websites run by various combatant commands throughout the world. The command's request called for any interested companies to send information about how they would continue to maintain the sites or develop new ones.
Contractors, the document says, will "operate/maintain existing ... websites and develop new websites tailored to foreign audiences," according to command-approved concepts, "conceptual approaches and any previously developed prototypes."
The request, according to Navy Lt. Cdr. Ligia Cohen, a SOCOM spokeswoman, "does not mean there is government commitment to follow through with a contract."
The push for more propaganda sites comes as Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, included a provision in the pending defense bill that would kill the sites. A similar proposal in the House by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., failed this year.
In May, the Government Accountability Office questioned the effectiveness of the websites and criticized the lack of coordination between the Pentagon and other federal agencies, such as the State Department. In some cases, information presented on the sites clashed with other government attempts to spread information or influence populations.
In Nepal, for example, the embassy's public affairs office was unaware of U.S. Pacific Command's website.