The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) has posted a closed meeting notice to meet the obligations of the Sunshine Act for for what appears to be a suddenly called closed meeting. The notice said that the board “determined that shorter than usual notice for a meeting was required by official agency business and delayed availability of required information.”
According to the posted notice, the closed meeting, which in addition to BBG members, will include John Lansing, Chief Executive Officer and Director; Rob Fallon, Chief of Staff; Ellona Fritschie, Director of Congressional Affairs; David Kligerman, Interim General Counsel; and Board Secretary Oanh Tran, Director of Board Operations, will be held Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at 9:30 A.M. EDT.
A few days ago, the House of Representatives voted to include in the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act an amendment, crafted by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep Ed Royce (R-CA), to establish a Global Engagement Center and reform the Broadcasting Board of Governors. One of the proposed reforms is de-federalization of the Voice of America (VOA).
The amendment as passed will go to the Senate which can either accept it, or give their own version. If there is a new Senate version of the amendment, it would necessitate the House and the Senate going into conference where its points can still be argued.
The amendment does not specify what establishing “a non-profit organization to carry out the mission of the Voice of America” would mean for current VOA journalists and other staffers who are federal government employees.
The proposed amendment:
1. Codifies the CEO position;
2. Devolves all of the Board’s authorities to the CEO;
3. Eliminates the Board (existing Board members can complete their current terms);
4. Authorizes the CEO to make grants to RFE/RL, MBN, and RFA contingent upon their consolidating into a single organization;
5. Makes it clear that RFE/RL, MBN, and RFA (or their consolidated organization) report to the CEO;
6. Authorizes the CEO to change the name of the BBG pursuant to Congressional notification;
7. Authorizes the CEO to establish a non-profit organization to carry out the mission of the Voice of America and includes a Sense of the Congress that the VOA mission should remain unchanged from that articulated in H.R.2323.
Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), who has been a longtime critic of the BBG and author of earlier legislative proposals to reform the $778 million (FY 2017 Budget Request) agency which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had called in 2013 “practically defunct,” has issued a statement praising the passage of the BBG reform amendment by the House of Representatives. According to Chairman Royce’s statement, he helped to craft the amendment which was introduced by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry.
It is expected that the Tuesday closed BBG meeting will focus on the amendment. BBG member Michael Kemper was the only one abstaining from the vote to close the meeting. All other BBG members voted to conduct a closed meeting.
Rep. Thornberry is well-known to at least some senior BBG officials. His earlier legislative initiative, which modified the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, was strongly supported at the time by future BBG member Matt Armstrong and was embraced by the BBG board and other officials. Mr. Armstrong, BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) deputy director Jeff Trimble and others were discussing Rep. Thornberry’s earlier Smith-Mundt Act modification proposal at the July 2011 public meeting of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. Mr. Armstrong was then the Advisory Commission’s executive director.
SEE: Who is Rep. Mac Thornberry who wants to de-federalize Voice of America?, BBG Watch, May 23, 2016
Photo: BBG Meets With Secretary Kerry, April 19, 2016. Front Row (L-R): BBG Governors Matthew Armstrong, Amb Karen Kornbluh, Michael Kempner. Back Row (L-R): BBG CEO John Lansing, BBG Chair Jeff Shell, Secretary Kerry, U/S of State for Public Diplomacy & Public Affairs Richard Stengel, BBG Governor Kenneth Weinstein.
Billing Code: 8610-01
BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS SUNSHINE ACT MEETING
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 9:30 A.M. EDT
Broadcasting Board of Governors Cohen Building
330 Independence Ave., SW Washington, D.C. 20237
Notice of Closed Meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors
SUMMARY: At the time and location listed above, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) will conduct a special telephonic meeting closed to the public pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552b(c)(9)(B). This meeting is closed in order to protect and prevent disclosure of the discussions related to BBG reform legislation, including premature disclosure of a discussion which would be likely to significantly frustrate implementation of a proposed agency action. The Board also determined that shorter than usual notice for a meeting was required by official agency business and delayed availability of required information.
MEMBERS VOTE TO CLOSE THE MEETING:
Jeffrey Shell – Yes
Matthew Armstrong – Yes
Leon Aron – Yes
Ryan Crocker – Yes
Michael Kempner – Abstained
Karen Kornbluh – Yes
Kenneth Weinstein – Yes
Richard Stengel, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs – Yes
TO BE IN ATTENDANCE:
Jeffrey Shell, BBG Chairman
Matthew Armstrong, BBG Member
Leon Aron, BBG Member
Michael Kempner, BBG Member
Kenneth Weinstein, BBG Member
Richard Stengel, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
John Lansing, Chief Executive Officer and Director
Rob Fallon, Chief of Staff
Ellona Fritschie, Director of Congressional Affairs
David Kligerman, Interim General Counsel and Board Secretary Oanh Tran, Director of Board Operations
CONTACT PERSON FOR MORE INFORMATION: Persons interested in obtaining more information should contact Oanh Tran at (202) 203-4545.
____________________________ Oanh Tran
Director of Board Operations