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May 31

Understanding the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act

Controversy has swirled around the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act since it passed mark-up as an amendment to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act on May 18. The bill is now before the Senate. The Smith-Mundt Act, which established public diplomacy and international broadcasting as activities of the U.S. government, has been in force since 1948. One of its provisions prohibits U.S. citizens from accessing the public diplomacy products of the U.S. government, whether in print or on the airwaves. The purpose of this provision was to prevent domestic government propagandizing. Yet, in an age when global news and information flows are available 24/7 in print, on the airwaves, and online, this prohibition has become an anachronism. Critics on the left and right alike have charged that modernizing the Smith-Mundt Act will lift the floodgates for U.S. government propaganda aimed at U.S. citizens. Not so. Rather, the amended act will force greater government transparency and accountability and it will allow Americans insights into what Washington is communicating to audiences around the world. Join us as our panel examines these and other aspects of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act.

More About the Speakers

Juliana Geran Pilon
Director, Center for Culture and Security, and Professor, Politics and Culture, Institute of World Politics

The Honorable Joseph Duffey
Former Director, United States Information Agency (1993-1999)

Helle Dale
Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, The Heritage Foundation

Hosted By

Robert B. Bluey Robert B. Bluey

Vice President, Publishing and Editor in Chief Read More