As Russia was working to subvert U.S. elections and sow discord among Americans, Congress directed the creation of an intelligence center to lead efforts to stop interference by foreign adversaries. But two years later, that center still is not close to opening.
Experts and intelligence officials broadly agree the proposed Foreign Malign Influence Center is a good idea. The U.S. has lacked a cohesive strategy to fight influence operations, they say, with not enough coordination among national security agencies. Adversaries that tried to interfere in the last two presidential elections continue to bombard Americans with disinformation and conspiracy theories at a time of peril for democracy in the U.S. and around the world.
But the intelligence community and Congress remain divided over the center’s mission, budget and size, according to current and former officials. While separate efforts to counter interference continue, a person identified this year as a potential director has since been assigned elsewhere and the center likely will not open anytime soon.
“It really is just giving a gift to Russia and China and others who clearly have their sights set not only on the midterm elections but on ongoing campaigns to destabilize American society,” said David Salvo, deputy director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund.
The nation’s top intelligence official had advocated for the center before taking office. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines last year co-chaired a German Marshall Fund task force supporting it. In a statement, spokeswoman Nicole de Haay said the director’s office “is focused on creating a center to facilitate and integrate the Intelligence Community’s efforts to address foreign malign influence.”