WASHINGTON - Today, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Chairwoman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the hearing titled “Crafting an Information Warfare and Counter-Propaganda Strategy for the Emerging Security Environment.” For hearing testimony and to watch the hearing live click here.
"I’d like to welcome everyone to this hearing of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee on the very timely topic of Information Warfare and Counter-Propaganda.
Although this subcommittee has met several times already in close-classified sessions, today is our first open and public hearing. As such, I’d like to take a moment to welcome and thank our new and returning subcommittee members, and also to congratulate our recently named Vice Chairwoman, Liz Cheney.
Our topic today is incredibly important: cyber warfare and influence campaigns that are being waged against our country represent a national security challenge of generational proportions.
In talking about influence campaigns, we too often focus on the digital and technical aspects; on the internet and social media. While those aspects are critical - and indeed have served as an accelerant to speed up communications and effects - we should remember to take a step back, and keep in mind that information warfare is about information, not just the medium; and our understanding of this form of warfare should also include the psychological, cognitive, and cultural aspects of the messages bombarding us from all sources.
I’d like to read a quote I recently reviewed:
'There has never been a time in our history when there was so great a need for our citizens to be informed and to understand what is happening in the world. The cause of freedom is being challenged throughout the world today…and propaganda is one of the most powerful weapons [they] have in this struggle. Deceit, distortion, and lies are systematically used by them as a matter of deliberate policy.'
Those were the words of President Harry Truman in 1950. He spoke of a conflict of ideas that is still occurring today. And unfortunately - it is a conflict we have largely ignored. I chose this quote as a reminder that Information Warfare and propaganda efforts are not new. The tools have changed, but enemy doctrine has not. Information warfare is shaping the international environment. There may not be overt and open fighting, but there is certainly open conflict. Information warfare is being waged in an aggressive ongoing competition over territory, resources, and people; in the Crimea; in the South China Sea; in Iraq, and in Syria.
People are being desensitized to the reality of actions around them, increasing the likelihood of misunderstanding and miscalculation.
Our core values of truth, democratic principles, and self-determination are under assault.
While the Department of Defense plays a critical role in this form of warfare, it cannot bear responsibility alone. Countering adversarial propaganda requires a whole-of-government strategy using all instruments of national power, to harness the authorities, tools and resources required to mitigate and marginalize its harmful effects.
With this in mind, the National Defense Authorization Act last year authorized and expanded the mission of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center to counter state-sponsored propaganda efforts, such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. We look forward to continuing to work with the Center and the Department of Defense this year, as we craft an Information Warfare and Counter-Propaganda strategy for an emerging security environment.
Before I turn to the Ranking Member for his comments, I’d like to highlight a few questions for our witnesses and Members to consider as we proceed throughout the hearing:
First, do we have an adequate strategy for countering the blatant lies and mistruths being promulgated by sophisticated nation-state actors that have both resources and political will?
Second, do we truly understand the Information Warfare and propaganda strategies of our enemies, be they state or non-state actors?
And lastly, since the United States remains a technological leader and innovator with tremendous creativity, how do we better harness our advantages to counter our adversaries?
We welcome three distinguished witnesses here this afternoon.
First, the Honorable Matt Armstrong, an Associate Fellow at the King’s Center for Strategic Communications, King’s College London.
Next, the Honorable Michael Lumpkin, formerly an Assistant Secretary of Defense and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center, now a Principal at Neptune Strategies.
And finally, Mr. Timothy Thomas, a senior analyst at the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, and the author of several books and articles on Russian and Chinese information operations and cyber policy.
Welcome to all of our witnesses. I’d like to remind you that your testimony will be included in the record, and we ask that you summarize key points from that testimony in 5 minutes or less.
Mr. Armstrong, the floor is yours."