- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2018

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has demanded an explanation for why tens of millions in federal funds allocated to battle Russian disinformation and propaganda has gone unspent.

In a letter dated Thursday and sent to Defense Secretary James Mattis and Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan, the senators note that $120 million that Congress allocated to the State Department to combat foreign meddling in U.S. elections has not triggered any fresh programming.

The letter — written by Democratic Sens. Chris Coon of Delaware, Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and GOP colleagues Rob Portman of Ohio, Marco Rubio of Florida and Todd Young of Indiana z— requests that officials at the State and Defense departments provide Capitol Hill with a timeline and spending plan for the authorized funds.

“[Russia’s] activities form part of an ongoing, long-term effort to undermine American institutions, weaken our alliances, and manipulate public perceptions,” the senators wrote. “With less than nine months until the 2018 midterm elections and with Russia continuing its extensive influence operations against U.S. allies and interests around the globe, we urge you to take the necessary steps to counter this urgent threat to our nation’s democratic processes, including by fully expending congressionally authorized funds to combat Russian malign aggression.”

In the past two months, multiple leading U.S. intelligence officials — including former National Security Agency Director and U.S. Cyber Command Chief Mike Rogers, FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats — all have confirmed that Russia used “active measures” to influence the 2016 presidential election and are targeting the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.

According to the letter, the Global Engagement Center (GEC), which Congress gave the statutory responsibility for countering foreign disinformation in 2016, has still not received congressionally authorized funds and lacks sufficient staff to execute its mission. The senators also note that while an interagency agreement was struck between the State Department and Department of Defense, the Department of Defense has still not transferred $40 million to support the effort.

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