Published: Sat, August 05, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

Tillerson to visit Southeast Asia

Tillerson to visit Southeast Asia

"They use the reorganization as an excuse to not act on anything", one former State official told Politico.

Most of the money - $60 million - was earmarked for the State Department's Global Engagement Center and has been sitting with the Pentagon, and it will expire if it is not transferred before September 30.

Thornton said Tillerson would continue to press China on the South China Sea issue while in Asia, where the United State has been pressing for rapid adoption of a code of conduct over competing territorial claims. The foreign affairs professionals at State are dumbfounded that a secretary of state would not be in a hurry to spend money appropriated to his own department.

Some officials said that Tillerson may not understand the details of the funding or he may not be aware of what his aides are doing.

"He and I have differences of views on things like JCPOA, and how we should use it", Tillerson said at a State Department briefing, using the acronym for the deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Though its original mandate was to coordinate USA counterterrorism messaging to foreign audiences, the Obama administration expanded the mission to include countering disinformation campaigns from countries such as China and Russian Federation.

The funds are intended for the Global Engagement Center, which is responsible for coordinating government efforts to counter online terrorist activity and, since December, state-sponsored disinformation campaigns.

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"The sobering truth is, we're still far where we ultimately need to be to operate in the modern information environment", the unit's former coordinator under the Obama administration, Michael Lumpkin, told a House Armed Services subcommittee early this year.

Tillerson said he expects President Trump to sign legislation that will impose new sanctions on Russian Federation for its meddling in the 2016 election.

The money has already been allocated to the State Department. At a House Committee on Armed Services hearing in March, several experts said USA counter-propaganda efforts are disjointed and lack a strategy tailored to specific threats.

Though the main goal of the visit will be to attend his first round of annual Asian summitry in the Philippines, he will also be looking to advance key priorities of the Trump administration with key allies and partners with stops in Thailand and Malaysia amid lingering anxieties in the region (See: "Trump's Real ASEAN Test").

"There's paranoia and inertia - decisions are not being made", a State Department official told the website.

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