State Dept. hasn’t spent any of its $120M to counter foreign election interference: report
The State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million allocated to it in order to address foreign efforts to interfere in U.S. elections, The New York Times reported on Sunday.
Because of the lack of spending, the Global Engagement Center, which is responsible for addressing Russia’s disinformation efforts, does not have a single Russian-speaking analyst, according to the Times.
In the final days of the Obama administration, Congress told the Pentagon to give $60 million to the State Department so it could coordinate efforts to fight Russian and Chinese “anti-democratic propaganda,” the Times reported.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took seven months to decide whether to spend the money but, because the fiscal year was just a few days from ending, the Pentagon said the State Department could no longer get it, the Times reported.
The State Department had another $60 million available for the next fiscal year but, after deliberating for five months, finally said last Monday that it would take $40 million.
The State Department expects to get the money around April, according to department officials.
The lack of action comes despite vocal concerns from U.S. officials that Russia will interfere in upcoming elections. Last month, Tillerson warned that Russia was already looking to interfere in the 2018 midterms.
“If it’s their intention to interfere, they’re going to find ways to do that,” Tillerson told Fox News last month. “And we can take steps we can take, but this is something that once they decide they are going to do it, it’s very difficult to pre-empt it.”
A poll by Axios released on Sunday found that a majority of Americans do not believe President Trump will stop foreign interference in the 2018 midterm elections.
U.S. Cyber Command chief Adm. Michael Rogers said last week that he hasn’t received permission from Trump to disrupt Russia’s election interference.
Three-fourths of Americans also believe Russia will try to interfere in future American elections and only 60 percent believe Trump is doing enough to address the threat, a USA Today poll found.