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Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

Sen. Portman secures commitment from Blinken to combat foreign disinformation

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During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this week, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) secured commitments from Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken to support the efforts of the Global Engagement Center (GEC) to combat disinformation and propaganda from foreign actors, like Russia and China.

Through the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016, Portman established the GEC, housed at the State Department, to coordinate counter-propaganda efforts throughout the United States. The law provided funding and authorities to the State Department that authorizes the GEC to help counter the foreign propaganda and disinformation being waged against our allies by state and non-state adversaries.

“I could not agree more with your comments and with the work that you’ve done on this. This is perhaps a primary battlefield that we have to fight on, and even as we manage to deter aggression and kinetic action by adversaries, every single day we are experiencing aggression from one kind or another in the misinformation and disinformation realm,” Blinken said at the hearing. “And we need to engage that, and we need to engage that effectively, and indeed, you are right, that is why the GEC was formed.”

Portman also secured a commitment from Blinken to continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself against continued Russian aggression.

Finally, Portman urged Blinken to hold China accountable for their continued theft of American taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property. As Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), Portman led a year-long investigation into China’s talent recruitment programs like the Thousand Talents Program.

The investigation culminated in a bipartisan report in November 2019 that detailed how China has recruited U.S.-based scientists and researchers since the late 1990s and incentivized them to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded research and IP to China for their own military and economic gain. Last year, Portman introduced the Safeguarding American Innovation Act to protect American research and IP from global competitors.