IG calls for more distance between AFIS, DOD public affairs
ARLINGTON, Va. — An ongoing audit has found a lack of internal controls separating Defense Department public affairs and American Forces Information Service, according to a Defense Department Inspector General’s Office memo.
“In addition, the lack of an AFIS Director for more than 5 years has been harmful to organizational morale and the establishment of proper internal controls,” according to the Nov. 30 memo, obtained by Stars and Stripes.
Without such a director, Defense officials have taken more responsibility for carrying out AFIS activities, said the memo.
AFIS is the parent organization for DOD media operations such as American Forces Radio-Television Service, the Pentagon Channel, Defense Information School and Stars and Stripes, which falls under the purview of Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for internal communications and public liaison.
“The [Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs] has become increasingly involved in the direct day-to-day operational control over AFIS activities and program management, making it difficult for interested parties to determine the chain of command for AFIS programs and employees,” the memo said.
The result has been a blurring of the lines between policy and oversight functions and AFIS’ operational activities, it said.
“This appears to have reduced the cohesion needed to operate AFIS effectively as a unified DOD field activity,” the memo said. “For example, individuals at the Defense Information School, Stars and Stripes Newspaper, and Defense Visual Information Service told us that they believed the current AFIS structure did not equitably serve or resource their mission.”
The memo lists a series of recommendations as AFIS becomes part of the much larger Defense Media Activity, which will consolidate individual service and DOD media components into a single organization.
First, the memo suggests appointing a career member of the Senior Executive Service or military equivalent as director of the DMA “as soon as practical” to serve as an adviser to the head of Defense Department public affairs on day-to-day activities.
The memo noted “inconsistent” oversight in AFIS for contracting, personnel management and other common functions.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman has been overseeing the day-to-day operation of the Defense Department public affairs office since Assistant Secretary of Defense of Public Affairs Dorrance Smith left office at the end of October.
“We appreciate the review that the Inspector General is doing at our request and look forward to their final report,” Whitman said in an e-mail Wednesday. “I intend to carefully and thoroughly consider any and all recommendations.”
The Inspector General’s Office is expected to produce a draft report on “potential weaknesses” within AFIS and public affairs by March 31, the memo said.