Pentagon Panel: U.S. Must Sell ‘Good News’

By Sharon Weinberger

“The strategic communication problem is to make good news as entertaining as bad news,” says a new report by the Defense Science Board, a senior-level Pentagon advisory panel that normally looks at science and technology issues.

Though the panel has done other reports on strategic communication, this one is significant in that the panel reaches beyond the Pentagon to make recommendations about how strategic communication should be handled by other parts of the government, such as State Department and the White House. While the panel does not mention Donald Rumsfeld’s idea of a new global communications agency, it does suggest a senior White House position for strategic communication.

Some of the recommendations are interesting, such as the proposed creation of a RAND-like organization to study “strategic communication.” But what is strange about this report (and perhaps the majority of reports I’ve seen on strategic communication) is that it discusses the issue as if convincing people to like the United States is a matter of simply crafting the right messages. While more effective strategic communication is a worthy goal, it’s mystifying that there is little or no discussion in reports such as this about that actual implications of policy choices for how the rest of the world perceives the United States.