The money to combat Russian misinformation was set aside by Congress late previous year for the State Department's Global Engagement Center.
"What we're seeing is a small group of people with very thin knowledge making all the decisions in a very centralized and isolated process".
But a former senior State Department official told Politico that Tillerson aide R.C. Hammond suggested the secretary of state doesn't want to fully fund the unit for fear of angering Putin.
One of the key things Russian Federation wants is for the U.S.to return two diplomatic properties that were seized late past year under Obama administration sanctions in retaliation for Russia's interference in the election. Congress allocated the funds to expand USA efforts to fight propaganda from hostile forces, including ISIS - and Russian Federation.
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The assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere, covering Latin America and Canada, could play an outsized role in US foreign policy given the Donald Trump administration's fixation on immigration issues from Latin America, trade deals with its closest neighbors, and the unraveling crisis in Venezuela. Part of that effort includes consolidating parallel operations and potentially closing certain offices deemed to be redundant or ineffective. And another $19.8 millon is ready to go to the Global Engagement Center, which counters online propaganda and misinformation.
"The sobering truth is we're still far where we ultimately need to be to operate in the modern information environment", Michael Lumpkin, coordinator of the Global Engagement Center under the Obama administration, told Congress.
While Brownfield is a top contender for the job, two sources cautioned that no nominees for the position have been formally cleared and at least one other official is in the running: Francisco Palmieri, the current "acting" assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs. "They put in a request in for additional funding". The secretary is concerned that releasing the money will complicate ongoing negotiations with the Kremlin on sensitive issues such as Syria and the Russian intervention in Ukraine, a former State department official told Politico.
"We are in conversations with the Philippine government, with Indonesia, with Malaysia, with Singapore, with Australia, as partners to recognise this threat, try to get ahead of this threat, and help them with training - training their own law enforcement capabilities, sharing of intelligence and provide them the wherewithal to anticipate what may be coming their direction", Tillerson added.