Allison Barber

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Allison C. Barber served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2008. In October 2008, Barber announced her resignation. "Her resignation comes just weeks after the Defense Media Activity began operations on Oct. 1 as the new umbrella group that will oversee all department of defense media," reported Stars and Stripes. Principal Deputy Assistant of Defense for Public Affairs Robert Hastings commented that he and Barber "have been discussing the timing of her departure since early summer. ... I asked her to stay until DMA was launched. Now that DMA is active and most of Allison's responsibilities have transferred, we agreed this week was a good time." Hastings added that Barber's departure was unrelated to the Defense Department Inspector General's investigation of America Supports You, a Pentagon program that Barber headed. [1] According to the firm's website, Barber is again heading her own PR firm, Sodenta. [2]

America Supports You

Barber is credited with developing the idea for the troop-focused Pentagon PR program "America Supports You" (ASY), which she headed until her resignation from the Defense Department. [1]

In mid-2007, the New York Times reported that ASY's fundraising practices were under investigation by the Defense Department's Inspector General. One issue is "whether officials who run 'America Supports You,' a three-year-old Pentagon program lauded by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, helped arrange a fund-raiser for a private foundation"—the America Supports You Fund—set up in December 2006 "by former Bush administration appointees," Cloud reported. In a January 2007 memo explaining the ASY Fund, Allison Barber wrote: "What we have learned is that the American people are beginning to fatigue, even in their support for the troops. ... I don't think we have a minute to lose when it comes to maximizing support for our military, especially in the new political environment." [2]

The Inspector General's report on America Supports You was released late on a Friday, December 12, 2008. [3]

In August 2007, ASY was criticized for its involvement with the "evangelical entertainment troupe" Operation Straight Up (OSU), which "actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military. [3]

In October 2007, Stars and Stripes reported that the ASY investigation had widened to include the daily military newspaper. "Both America Supports You and American Forces Information Service -- the parent organization for Stripes -- are headed by Allison Barber," Stars and Stripes reported on October 20. In July 2006, Stars and Stripes awarded a $499,000 purchase agreement to Susan Davis International, ASY's PR firm. Stars and Stripes' top editors said the agreement raised "extreme concern among editorial staff," and promised to conduct a review of the paper's reporting on ASY. "We were aware of some interaction between S&S marketing department and ASY, but were appalled to learn the degree of involvement and the use of Stripes finances to fund the Pentagon's public relations campaign," they added. [4]

Staged Bush conference call

Barber helped stage a October 13, 2005, teleconference call "billed as a conversation with U.S. troops" in Iraq. President George W. Bush's questions for the troops "were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution," reported the Associated Press. "'This is an important time,' Allison Barber, deputy assistant defense secretary, said, coaching the soldiers before Bush arrived. 'The president is looking forward to having just a conversation with you.'" [5] [6]

New media

During a June 2007 interview, Barber said the Defense Department's New Media directorate "was developed several months ago because we realized that technology is changing so quickly that it offered us new advancements and new tools to reach our audiences, and we needed to find ways to incorporate that into our job." According to Congressional Quarterly, "Since its launch in October, the New Media office has worked to develop personal relationships with military 'bloggers' and online journalists, improve and expand the department's Web presence and usability, embrace content-sharing sites such as YouTube and MySpace, and make communications products available on devices like cell phones, iPods and MP3 players." The "Bloggers' Roundtable" was described as a "centerpiece" of the office's work.[4]

According to PR Week, "Upon her arrival [at the Defense Department], she was immediately given a mandate by then-Pentagon communications chief Torie Clarke to help military public affairs take advantage of new media and modern communications techniques." [5]

Background

In late 2003, Barber's title at the Pentagon became Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Internal Communications and Public Liaison. She was appointed to the position "by Lawrence Di Rita, who had been acting assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, and who last week was nominated to that position permanently," reported Stars and Stripes in November 2003. "Barber was chosen to be special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in June 2001. ... Before that, Barber was the president of Sodenta, a public relations firm in Washington. Previously, she was a public relations director for the American Red Cross." [6]

"Since 2001, she has led the evolution of the DOD internal communications enterprise into a dynamic mix of old and new mediums utilized to target specific information to the diverse worldwide military audience and the domestic general public," states a biographical note on the Defense Department's "America Supports You" website. "Under her leadership ... the Department of Defense has launched the Pentagon Channel, the America Supports You program, the DOD New Media Operation and the Department’s new Speakers Bureau Program called Why We Serve. She also manages the Secretary's Joint Civilian Orientation program and oversees policies and initiatives that provide communities and other organizations with opportunities to better understand Defense activities and strengthen support of America's Armed Forces. ... The operational components of Ms. Barber's organization are American Forces Radio and Television, the Pentagon Channel, the American Forces Press Service, the Department's Internet Web Operations and New Media, the Defense Media Center, and Stars and Stripes newspaper." [7]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. "America Supports You head Allison Barber leaving DOD," Stars and Stripes, October 22, 2008.
  2. "Approach," Sodenta website, accessed February 2009.
  3. U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General, "The America Supports You Program (pdf)," December 12, 2008 (Project No. D2007-D000CH-0213.000).
  4. "New Media Program Seeks Opportunities in 24/7 Global Networks," Congressional Quarterly, June 21, 2007.
  5. Ted McKenna, "Barber helps DoD embrace Web's possibilities," PR Week, September 24, 2007.
  6. "Allison Barber named to DOD public affairs post," Stars and Stripes, November 26, 2003.
  7. "America Supports You - Allison Barber," America Supports You website, accessed November 2007.

External resources

External articles