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Lincoln Group Awarded Strategic Communication Contract

Thursday, Sept. 28, 2006

The Lincoln Group, the firm that was in the news last year for heading a controversial U.S. Special Operations Command program to pay Iraqi print media for the placement of ghost-written opinion pieces, is back in the news.

It seems the firm has been awarded a $6 million-plus (correction: it's $12 million-plus, according to MNF-I) contract to conduct "strategic communication management services" on behalf of Multi-National Forces Iraq. The contract announcement doesn't offer much detail.

The Lincoln Group isn't really talking either. "Lincoln Group is proud to be trusted to assist the multinational forces in Iraq with communicating news about their vital work," the firm's Bill Dixon told the Associated Press.

I spoke to Dixon on the phone, and he couldn't tell me much more. He said, understandably, that a lot of what The Lincoln Group does depends on secrecy. So they don't talk out of school. Though Dixon did say that that The Lincoln Group has been working consistently in Iraq since the pay-for-press program ended up in the pages of the Washington Post (and eventually even the subject of this snarky Style-section piece).

Needless to say, coverage is not what The Lincoln Group wants, no matter what type. Thus it's interesting that the firm survived the flap, still managed to get work consistently in Iraq, and is getting this new $6 million contract. Even staunch advocates of the kind of work that The Lincoln Group does have criticized what they saw as the ham-handed execution of the SOCOM contract. Some have said, for example, that the Arabic translations of the ghost-written opinion pieces were less than stellar.

But to be fair, that's not the reason why their work was exposed -- at least in the United States. Instead, they were the victim of a leak, undoubtedly a leak commited by someone who found the business of paying Iraqi editors to run news stories unseemly. But the war in Iraq, as with the larger battle against Islamist extremism, like it or not, is a war of ideas. Given this fact, the United States can't afford to be so squeamish about using propaganda.

And in the end, really, isn't using propaganda better than using guns and bombs?

UPDATE: I found the "statement of work" for this contract on the Federal Business Opportunities site. It's quite interesting reading, for anyone interested in this kind of thing. Of course when I asked the public affairs people over at Multi-National Force Iraq what the work under the contract consisted in, they gave me no answer. And yet the statement of work is posted online, there for consumption by any member of the public who can find it. They don't want to make it too easy, I guess.

You can read it yourself, but basically the contract (which by the way is $12 million in total, not $6 million as I said above) consists in a the following main tasks: monitoring international media to assess coverage of issues important to coalition forces; building Web sites to disseminate information in English and Arabic; developing a Web-based news publication (presumably not one as interesting or informative as World Politics Review); training military spokesmen and women and others who have to talk to the press; and conducting research on and developing a plan for an effective communications strategy.