Using Unclassified U.S. Government Reporting in America’s Global Battles of Influence

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The United States has potential weapons it can use in its competition with hostile states—and in building up its strategic partnerships—that it now badly undervalues. The U.S. government has a unique capability to generate official analyses and databases on threat countries, on cooperation with strategic partners, on key aspects of national security policy, and on a host of other areas where accurate and in-depth reporting, analysis, and data can become “weapons of influence” in shaping the views and analysis of foreign governments, non-governmental organizations, think tanks, news media, and other institutions.

The Emeritus Chair in Strategy has prepared a brief analysis of the current strengths and weaknesses of the ways the U.S. government is now organized to use its unclassified intelligence reporting, national security reporting, and official reporting to counter threats like those posed by Russia and China, and to strengthen its relations with its strategic partners and other countries. It can be downloaded from the CSIS website here and a downloadable copy is attached at the bottom of this transmittal.

The analysis reveals that there are major problems in the present coverage and quality of official reporting and that major changes need to be made if such reporting is to be used efficiently in artificial intelligence and “big data” comparisons and analysis. It shows that the U.S. government only makes sporadic use of most of such information in influence operations. The main focus of official U.S. public affairs reporting is on issuing daily or short-term statements about meetings, and on “spinning” daily events and issues to get favorable coverage and favorable political messaging. It focuses on having an ephemeral impact, rather than on providing the kind of reporting in depth and accurate data that can have a far more lasting impact.

No one can deny the need for topical U.S. government public relations and information efforts that deal with daily events and issues, but the United States needs to take far more advantage of its capability for substantive data collection and the analysis it already carries out at both classified and unclassified levels. It needs to provide the kind of databases and analyses in depth that can serve as key sources of information and help shape longer-term perceptions and national security policy, and it needs to aggressively communicate the information at the departmental, agency, command, and embassy levels.

It now faces a mix of hostile powers and threats that carry out information warfare at both a civil and military level and on a global basis. There is no region in the world where it does not confront China and/or Russia on this basis, as well as lesser regional threats and terrorist and extremist movements.

At the same time, the United States also needs to look beyond its present reports and databases to consider how it can generate more useful “big data” that will help shape both global use of the web and future U.S. and foreign use of artificial intelligence. The United States not only needs to improve its current “weapons of influence but to realize that its present reporting a databases will often need radical revisions and improvements in a world where the ability to use data retrieval and management to improve almost every aspect of policy formation and implementation, cooperation with strategic partners and other nations, and counter hostile information warfare will change radically over the coming decade.

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