Pentagon Spends $300,000 Per Year to Study Body Language of Putin, World Leaders

The program has never informed a DOD policy decision, a spokesman said.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence, outside Moscow on March 5, 2014.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
March 7, 2014, 12:20 p.m.

The Pentagon might be tak­ing a 1989 Kiss song a little too ser­i­ously.

The De­fense De­part­ment is spend­ing about $300,000 a year study­ing the body lan­guage of Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin and oth­er world lead­ers, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press sec­ret­ary, said Fri­day.

The find­ings haven’t been used to help de­cipher the close-to-the-vest Rus­si­an lead­er dur­ing the on­go­ing ten­sions over Ukraine, Kirby said. “The re­ports are giv­en right to the Of­fice of Net As­sess­ment, and as I un­der­stand it, that is where they stay,” he said.

Kirby didn’t know who spe­cific­ally had seen the re­ports but said that De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel hasn’t read the stud­ies. “I can tell you for sure that they have not in­formed any policy de­cisions by the De­part­ment of De­fense,” Kirby em­phas­ized.

And al­though Hagel wasn’t aware of the pro­gram be­fore, he is now, Kirby said, adding that he “asked some ques­tions about it this morn­ing, and I sus­pect he’ll be ask­ing more ques­tions.”

Kirby faced mul­tiple ques­tions about the pro­gram at a press con­fer­ence that oth­er­wise fo­cused on Ukraine and a pro­pos­al on re­vamp­ing the mil­it­ary’s re­tire­ment sys­tem. Kirby char­ac­ter­ized An­drew Mar­shall, who over­sees the Pentagon’s Of­fice of Net As­sess­ment, a DOD think thank, as “an out-of-the-box thinker who likes to study all kinds of is­sues.”

Wheth­er the re­ports will ever see the pub­lic light of day is un­clear. Though they are un­clas­si­fied, Kirby said the Pentagon has no in­ten­tion of “act­ively mak­ing it pub­lic.”

Putin was stud­ied in 2008 and 2012, but it’s un­known which lead­ers — or how many — had their body lan­guage and move­ments stud­ied. Kirby said he would try to provide a list, but noted that the Pentagon doesn’t provide guid­ance on whom to look at.

USA Today first re­por­ted on the pro­gram Thursday.

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