The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) recognizes that everything it does communicates a message, from having soldiers distribute soccer balls in conflict zones to scheduling joint exercises off the coasts of foreign nations. However, DOD officials stated that the department has struggled for several years to strategically align its actions with the messages it intends to communicate to foreign audiences — an effort that is also referred to as strategic communication. With the growth of global communications, these messages are quickly transmitted around the world and can affect not only military operations, but also perceptions of the United States by foreign audiences. Other agencies, such as the Department of State, also directly engage foreign audiences and therefore DOD recognizes it can benefit from acting in concert with interagency partners.
Congress requested that the GAO review DOD's various efforts to engage foreign audiences. The objectives for this report were to describe (1) DOD's approach to strategic communication, (2) the initial actions that DOD has taken to implement this approach, and (3) DOD's plans to reflect the roles of its interagency partners in strategic communication.