Thursday, August 14, 2014

MISO Is Gone And Other News




Hooray!

Effective 5 Aug 14 PSYOP units are back to being themselves. The derided and apparently ineffective switch to Military Information Support Operations (MISO) has been reversed with the unit naming convention going back to PSYOP.
(See: http://soldiersystems.net/2014/08/10/two-big-organizational-renamings-in-socom-this-week/)

At the time of the re-naming, it was contended that MISO gave PSYOP a less sinister perspective. Others argued that calling an elephant a giraffe didn’t make him one, and that the unit’s reputation or mission would be unaffected.

It’s refreshing to see common sense in action, especially in light of the world situation.

In other news, our good friends at USA Today on August 12, 2014 reported that USSOCOM is engaging in ‘market research’ in Colombia. (See: http://www.usatoday.com/story/nation/2014/08/12/socom-tries-again-with-propaganda-research/13961225/)

The essence of the article is: “SOCOM has tried for years to come up with a better way to determine if its propaganda programs, also known as military information support operations, actually work.”

The implications, at least in my mind, of the tone and choice of words are: USSOCOM is engaged in evil propaganda which Congress has already tried to stop, and is a waste of taxpayer’s money.

“McPaper” as USA Today was once called comparing it to journalistic fast food (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/17/business/media/17gannett.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) has published several articles in the same genre denigrating DOD influence efforts.

First of all, it strikes me that trying to find out what messages work is a good thing. Commercial marketing folks do that all the time. Does that mean it’s a slow news day for USA Today?

My first thought was that their ‘target audience’ is Congress. After all, what other group is so over-worked and under appreciated that they don’t have time to read ‘real sources’, especially since the bulk of Congressional work is done by staffers.

My second thought was, how nice of Congress to give SOCOM a plug and I wondered who else might have run a similar story, so I Googled “SOCOM propaganda Colombia” and found that AOL picked up the story and produced a video at http://www.aol.com/video/socom-tries-again-with-propaganda-research/518369638/. Be forewarned you will have to endure a terrible ‘quit smoking’ commercial – or at least I did.

Couple of points here -

USA Today may actually be more of an early morning source than an influencer in its own right.

Video clips may be the next big thing in ‘news’ if they are not already. This means tactical PSYOP forces will need to be more digitally mobile and capable than ever before.

Enjoy what’s left of your summer.

Photo source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pink Slips in Afghanistan?



How do you get fired for doing a great job and one you love? Easy – be in the military at the end of a conflict. The rubber band personnel policies associated with gearing up and gearing down from conflict are in play.

There have been many recent articles about Captains and Majors receiving their ‘pink slip’ while on duty in Afghanistan. For my non-American readers, a ‘pink slip’ has two American colloquial meanings. The one used here means a termination notice from your human resources (personnel department). The other one, not used here means the title document to a motor vehicle, typically in California. (see: Black Majors dismissed at a great rate than whites at: http://www.armytimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014308050052).

All of us who have served in the military have felt privileged to do so. There was a higher dimension of satisfaction with your job and you felt a kinship with your co-workers (past, and present) that is not experienced in the commercial sector.

The work is often demanding and sometimes dangerous. There is generally no such thing as an 8-hour day and my CJICTF (Combined Joint Information Campaign Task Force), the PSYOP task force, in Bosnia had no understanding of the term ‘day off’ even though our Civil Affairs colleagues were off every Sunday.

You feel the work is important and so you give it your all, consequently, when you feel you got screwed, you’re hurt and disappointed.

To this day I can remember how down I was after not being selected for Group Command. “How could the Army be that stupid?” I wondered, after all, I had a pretty good track record and I only lived 6 miles from the unit while the winning candidate lived over 2,000 miles from it.

Some time after that I was at a military cocktail party and grumbling about it to LTG Tagney. He looked me in the eye and said “Dietz – it’s the Board System and you can’t do a thing about it.”

I bring this up because I don’t want any of my soldiers who are leaving the Army to feel this action is personal. The Army is an institution and if you love the institution, you need to do what you can to stay connected in the way that makes the most sense for you.

In my case I moved on to the 315st CA Command where I served as the G2 and ultimately to SOCOM where I served as an IO Officer. While neither was as good as Group CDR, I was able to continue my relationship with the military.

Now that I have been retired over 12 years I’m still connected as an ESGR Volunteer, author of this Blog and occasionally, a small government contractor.

My advice to affected individuals is: if you can transfer to the Reserve or the Guard -do so. You’ll maintain the connection and you’ll have a pension when the time comes.

Enjoy the rest of your summer.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tibet is All A Twitter – But For the Wrong Reasons


I have often talked about “cyber psyop” or cyber influence. The notion of using traditional techniques in the cyber medium. The NY Times on July 22, 2014 ran an article on July 22, 2104, It’s Another Perfect Day in Tibet! (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/22/world/asia/trending-attractive-people-sharing-upbeat-news-about-tibet-.html?_r=0, which is also the photo source).

The article talks about the Chinese competent Twitter poster, Tom Hugo (That's Tom's picture above.) Seems Tom is actually a figment, he’s not real, but his Twitter pages are real – real good examples of how PSYOP can be used in cyber space.

Tom and many of his colleagues are the progeny of the PRC’s propaganda machine designed to shape he news in the way the PRC government feels the news ought to look like. The bogus sites were found by a “Free Tibet” group. While there is no direct evidence that the government of the PRC is behind the efforts, most experts concede it would be difficult to point out any others who would benefit from tis type of campaign.

The people in these social media efforts are generally commercial images. Tom Hugo for example is a Brazilian model. Like their PSYOP counterparts in other times and places, there are no MOE on the PRC efforts.

The PRC may have banned Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube in their own country, but it is apparent they recognize how important these social media sites can be for influence purposes.

It would not be a giant leap to see this kind of influence operations extended to Military Deception (MilDec) operations where details of future deployments, or unit readiness are ‘leaked’ via social media postings.

Hopefully all y’all are enjoying your summer. On a travel note, I had a chance to visit the Disney Family Museum at the Presidio of San Francisco and enjoyed it. Here are a couple of Walt’s efforts in WWII. These photos were taken by the author.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Middle East: PSYOP’s Ultimate Battlefield


One of the unique facets of PSYOP is that it can be employed at all organization levels from strategic to tactical. Nowhere is this more evident that the Middle East. While one could probably argue that there was more than a little early Middle Eastern PSYOP involving a snake, an apple and a garden – there is no doubt that PSYOP is a key element of conflicts in the Middle East.

At the Strategic level, heads of state take steps they know will not directly effect their adversaries, but would position them more favorably in the court of world opinion. One such PSYACT took place when Israel unilaterally accepted the short-lived “Truce” announced early this week brokered through Egypt. Israel announced that they would abide by the truce knowing that Hamas couldn’t go along with the truce without losing face among its own people and appearing to be weak in dealing with its enemy.

Given the small size of Israel, what might have been operational level influence efforts turn out to be more tactical ones. Leaflets and SMS warning Gaza residents of impending attacks and urging them to flee are tactical in nature. Yet the act itself could be considered operational or strategic because of the way it would show the international community that Israel is really the good guy here because it is seeking to avoid collateral injury and death to civilians.

The efforts on both sides offer some best practices:
1.     Images coupled with music are a good combination and reinforce each other.
2.     All influence channels have to work together. While it is fair to say that neither Israel’s Defense Force (IDF) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) or Hamas do not have the separation of Public Affairs and MISO that the US and others have, during active conflict all elements need to work together.
3.     Knowing the communications landscape is key. Use of SMS is vital in densely populated areas.
4.     Traditional techniques may have side effects. While one may debate the use of leaflets as a MISO tool, there can be no doubt of the psychological effect of thousands of pieces of paper streaming down from aircraft. The implication is control of the sky and ability to drop more lethal ordnance from aircraft.
5.     Language is key. You use your language, your enemy’s language and English to reach the world media.
6.     While Internet exposure may not impact tactical operations, the internet facilitates global influence.

The Middle East conflicts are an on-going laboratory for PSYOP and MISO.

Readers should be aware of these activities and store them away for training or other lessons learned activity. If there are readers who speak either Arabic or Hebrew, I’d appreciate knowing how the English differs from those two languages.

As always, reader comments encouraged.

References:

Hamas Propaganda Videos:
Video pushing Beer Sheeva Evacuation:
Iron Dome is a "failed project," Israel is concealing death toll: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgz1YK0dxro

Propaganda Song against Egyptian President Sisi Surfaces on Hamas Forum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVrIekWCtsk

Israeli Counter-Propaganda:

Hamas' Actions Match Its Words

IDF Leaflets Over Gaza:

http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/11/21/idf-drops-warning-leaflets-over-gaza-strip-providing-safety-instructions-for-civilians/

Gaza: Israel Warns Targets by SMS And Phone To Leave Before Bombing
Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/1342806/gaza-israel-warns-targets-by-sms-and-phone-to-leave-before-bombing/#ygkYkulOUC3xBcRA.99

NY Times article on Recruiting Foreign Fighters for Syria:
Gaza: Israel Warns Targets by SMS And Phone To Leave Before Bombing
Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/1342806/gaza-israel-warns-targets-by-sms-and-phone-to-leave-before-bombing/#ygkYkulOUC3xBcRA.99

Photo Source: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/middle-east-unrest/israel-drops-leaflets-warning-northern-gaza-airstrikes-n154571

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Everyone Needs Training


Like many old soldiers, I often think back to my military duty days. A of couple vignettes still stand out in my mind. The first was at Camp Parks, CA one year when I was commanding an Army Security Agency (ASA) Company on Annual Training. For those of you not military historians, ASA was the part of Military Intelligence that dealt with SIGINT and EW. We were on a two week AT when some NCOs approached the Company 1SG and me and asked “Sir, how can we jam radios when the troops don’t know how to work them?”

A second instance took place about a year later at Fort Hunter Liggett during another AT exercise. I was sound asleep when the CQ woke me up. “Sir, the BC is on the field phone and wants to talk to you now!” I stumbled out of bed to learn that the unit missed its radio check, so I had to amble down to the radio and do it myself.

The point is that basics are important. I have been a Red Cross volunteer on and off for a number of years. My specialty was Public Affairs. Ever since I passed my Ham Radio license test in November I’ve been retraining in the networking, computer operations and radio communication specialty. This week finds me in San Diego (there are worse places to be) for three days of hands on training.

The highlight of Day 1 was learning how to set up a VSAT dish and being able to connect to it as a means of getting out to the Internet. We also learned about setting up switches, VOIP phones and wireless access points. Azmith, aps and elevation are all components of the process.

These are hard skills on finite hardware and software. So, how does one go about staying fully competent in PSYOP/MISO which is a mix of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills.

I’d offer a couple of suggestions. First of all, be aware of the news and see if you can figure out the next sh*thole where troops will be deployed.

Try to experience different cultures. Find ethnic neighborhoods and look around and enjoy a meal at a local place or a coffee/tea.

Stay abreast of the latest in technology. My battle scars from Windows and my relative successes with Apple pushed me over into the world of IMac and MacBookAir, not to mention iPhone and iPad. Each of these technologies requires practice and labor intensive organization. Working with photos, videos and social networking sites also requires a fair bit of effort.

I must admit that I was given a Samsung phone to set up as home work this evening and while I got some stuff done, I couldn’t get passed the incomprehensible instructions for e-mail authentication so that aps could be loaded.

There is no end to what you can do to keep sharp. The key is to consistently do something challenging.

Photo Source: The author

Monday, June 30, 2014

Social Media MISO – Tactical, Strategic, Hybrid or Wave of The Future?


We’ve all heard the phrase “The Strategic Corporal”. We’ve taken it to mean that a comparably junior soldier can perform an act that has a global strategic impact. Perhaps the same can be said for Social Media.

The NY Times 28 June 14 article, “Iraq’s Sunni Militants Take to Social media to Advance Their Cause and Intimidate” (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/world/middleeast/iraqs-sunni-militants-take-to-social-media-to-advance-their-cause-and-intimidate.html?_r=0)  was a follow-up to a conference call I attended on Friday.

The topic was not the importance of Social Media as a MISO tool, but the issues of how these campaigns should be planned an implemented. On one hand, anyone, anywhere can access and engage in social media. Many of us are somewhat addicted to Facebook to let everyone else know what we are doing and to vicariously experience what are friends are doing.

Access is ubiquitous. Smart phones, tablets, kiosks and, of course, computers all are portals into social media. Does this mean that social media operations can be run in ‘reach-back’ mode where a centralized resource can globally execute social media MISO?

Or is it more prudent to have the forward deployed MISO CDR orchestrate the campaign employing local and reach-back resources?

Given the far-flung and fast moving nature of actions across the spectrum of conflict, perhaps the right answer is ‘none of the above’. Perhaps the right answer is to develop an evolving and dynamic doctrine and set of social media ROE that recognizes the need and resources required for social media MISO and apportions them up and down the chain of command.

We should also recognize that there might be times where our enemies will deny Internet access into their territory, but will actively employ social media operations internally. For example, if ISIS should be able to extend their control to include the ability to turn off outside world access, it would follow that they would do this for their areas. They would continue to provide this access for their own PSYOP as a core tenet of their influence strategy.

Social media MISO are also indicative of the shotgun wedding that is occurring between CNO and influence operations. The blending of these two disciplines is accelerating so that any future operations will more than likely require both in the assessment and execution phases.

Force providers and doctrine developers need to appreciate this and move with haste to develop the framework for future ops – because the future is already here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The PSYOP of ISIS


There has been no shortage of military excitement lately with much of it centered on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The map appearing at right is from the Washington Post (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/white-house-beginning-to-consider-conflicts-in-syria-and-iraq-as-single-challenge/2014/06/19/b14bd8b4-f7ac-11e3-a606-946fd632f9f1_story.html?wpisrc=nl_hdtop)

I think it does a nice job of putting much of the current state in the Middle East into perspective. While it doesn’t break down the ethnic borders separating Kurds, Sunni and Shia, it shows that Syria border’s Iraq and that Iraq serves as a buffer between Syria and Iran.

The map also shows the logical sense behind considering the actions in Syria and Iraq as one AO.

President Obama is still mulling over what major actions to take.

As I stated in my last post, my money was on UAVs because they can be targeted precisely with good intelligence (hence the recent order for deploying Special Operations). Foreign Policy noted “Obama said – (special forces) will work alongside Iraqi military forces in special intelligence centers, using drone video feeds and spy satellite photographs to track and attack ISIS fighters. They'll also be in a prime position to help carry out U.S. airstrikes the moment Obama orders them”

Where does that leave MISO?

Well – for one thing cyber influence should be under way and likely there should be ample mobile phone targets in the AO as well. They key question is what do you want the target to do? What is the desired effect?

My goal would be to try and put the enemy off their game. Not necessarily waste my time or bandwidth trying to get them to surrender, but for them to constantly look over their shoulder for that Predator or for more accurate fire from the Iraqi military because they have better intelligence and more confidence.

Have we gone so far as to provide the Iraqi force with some rudimentary MISO capabilities and training? If so, how is it working out?

I’ll leave you with this parting thought:

Shifting gears a bit, assuming for the moment that the active MISO force is not starting to get stretched by new commitments in Africa, Asia and Latin America, have we, as a community, been smart enough to figure out how to harness the power of the Reserve MISO force to bolster the overall capability posture?