Global Engagement Center
The Global Engagement Center is charged with leading the U.S. government’s efforts to counter propaganda and disinformation from international terrorist organizations and foreign countries.
The Secretary of State established the Global Engagement Center (GEC) in April 2016 pursuant to Executive Order 13721. The GEC was subsequently codified into law by Congress in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which defined its mission as being to “lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.”
The GEC operates as a forward-looking, innovative organization that can shift focus quickly to remain responsive to agile adversaries. The GEC leverages data science, cutting-edge advertising technologies, and top talent from the private sector. With detailees from across the interagency, the GEC coordinates messaging efforts to ensure they are streamlined and to eliminate duplication.
The GEC plays a key role in the U.S. government’s strategy to defeat terrorist organizations and disrupt their ability to recruit new followers. The GEC approaches the task of undermining terrorist ideology with the understanding that the people and groups closest to the battlefield of narratives are the most effective in countering them.
The FY 2017 NDAA expanded the GEC’s mission to include countering the adverse effects of state-sponsored propaganda and disinformation. The GEC is currently consulting widely within the U.S. government, with allied governments, non-governmental organizations, and civil society, as well as with private-sector experts about best practices in confronting state-sponsored propaganda and disinformation. The 2017 NDAA also provided legal authorities, including a Privacy Act authorization, which will permit the GEC to meet the rising demand from the interagency and international partners for data analytics. The NDAA also expanded the range of support that the GEC could provide to foreign non-governmental organizations, think tanks, and other organizations.
The work of the GEC is focused around four core areas: science and technology, interagency engagement, partner engagement, and content production.
- Science & Technology: The GEC’s Science & Technology team is charged with enabling the U.S. government and its partners to increase the reach and effectiveness of their communications. The team conducts research on target audiences and utilizes data science techniques to measure the effectiveness of our efforts. Among other techniques, the Science & Technology team performs A/B testing and multivariate analysis to measure the effectiveness of our content distribution. The GEC utilizes hypothesis-driven experimentation and applies a “create-measure-learn” approach to its activities to maximize effectiveness.
- Interagency Engagement: The GEC liaises regularly across the interagency and coordinates closely with the relevant national security departments and agencies to identify efficiencies and opportunities in the messaging and partnership space. The GEC’s staff includes detailees from throughout the interagency, including the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, United States Agency for International Development, and Broadcasting Board of Governors.
- Partner Engagement: One of the GEC’s overarching strategies is to identify, cultivate, and expand a global network of partners whose voices resonate with individuals most vulnerable to harmful propaganda. These partners work tirelessly to drive a wedge between susceptible audiences and those nations, groups, and terrorists seeking to influence them. The GEC conducts on-the-ground training sessions to enable these partners to develop their own content and disseminate it through their distribution networks. The GEC also leverages rigorous research and data science to improve tactics and techniques and inspire innovation.
- Content Production: The GEC and its partners have established programming across multiple platforms, including social media, satellite television, radio, film, and print. This programming is conducted in various languages, including Arabic, Urdu, Somali, and French. These platforms allow the U.S. government and its partners to inject factual content about terrorist organizations into the information space to counter recruitment and radicalization to violence. They also allow us to develop and disseminate messaging on effective themes, such as exposing ISIS’s financial and governance failures; its violence against women, children, and religious minorities; and its ongoing territorial losses.
The GEC is currently led by Special Envoy and Coordinator Lea Gabrielle.