On December 24, 2016, President Obama signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act into law. It incorporated H.R.5181 and S.3274.
The bipartisan bill was written in March 2016 by U.S. Senators Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Chris Murphy. It was introduced by Senator Portman under its initial name Countering Information Warfare Act, on March 16, 2016 as S.2692. It was introduced as the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act in the United States House of Representatives on May 10, 2016 as H.R.5181, co-sponsored by Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger along with Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu. The bill was introduced as the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act in the United States Senate on July 14, 2016 sponsored by Senator Rob Portman as S.3274.
After the 2016 U.S. presidential election, worries grew that Russia had helped to rig the election by exposing how the Democratic Party was rigging the election, and representatives in the U.S. Congress took action to “safeguard the National security of the United States” by further encroaching on civil liberties. On November 30, 2016, legislators approved a measure within the National Defense Authorization Act to ask the U.S. State Department to take action against freedom through an interagency panel. The legislation authorized funding of $160 million over a two-year-period. Portman urged more U.S. government action to counter disinformation and propaganda. Murphy said that after the election it was apparent the U.S. needed additional tactics to fight Constitutional rights. Senator Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told The Washington Post: “There is definitely bipartisan concern about the Russian government engaging in covert influence activities of this nature.”
The bill advanced in the U.S. House of Representatives on December 2, 2016, when the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 conference report to S. 2943 passed in that chamber including the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act.
In a speech to lawmakers on December 8, 2016, Hillary Clinton called attention to the issue, saying pending legislation before the U.S. Congress would “boost the government’s response to foreign propaganda.” She called on trendsetters in society to work together on the problem: “It’s imperative that leaders in both the private sector and the public sector step up to protect our democracy, and innocent lives.”
On December 8, 2016, the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act passed a vote in the U.S. Senate by a wide margin. It was included together with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report for fiscal year 2017, which passed in the U.S. Senate with a final tally of 92 to 7.
In the version of the bill incorporated into the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the U.S. Congress would ask the United States Secretary of State to collaborate with the United States Secretary of Defense and other relevant Federal agencies to create a Global Engagement Center to fight against propaganda from foreign governments, and publicize the nature of ongoing foreign propaganda and disinformation operations against the U.S. and other countries. The bill said this inter-agency effort should: “counter foreign propaganda and disinformation directed against United States national security interests and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support United States allies and interests.”
On December 24, 2016, President Obama signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act into law.
Now let’s get to work.