Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Does Video Quality Really Matter?




One of my favorite military sources, “Task & Purpose” featured an article “North Korea Blasts US Arsenal in Fresh Propaganda Video with TerribleGraphics” (see: http://taskandpurpose.com/north-korea-blasts-us-arsenal-fresh-propaganda-video-terrible-graphics/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tp-today&utm_content=button; which is the photo source.) You can also read about the video in the Japan Times at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/20/asia-pacific/north-korean-state-run-propaganda-website-depicts-u-s-aircraft-carrier-bomber-engulfed-flames/#.WNMNio61ufX

You can find the almost three minute video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70MTvxFzZ-Y. Unfortunately it’s in Korean with no subtitles, a likely intelligence indicator of who the target audience for the video is. After watching the sepia toned mélange of photos and clips, it seems to me that the audience is like to be North Koreans.

While not being able to understand the dialogue, it seems to me that the intent of the video is to convince the view that the North Koreans will prevail against the meagre weapons of the decadent West. While the quality is supposed to be the same as ‘professional’ news organizations, it would not likely pass for a product from an advanced news agency such as the BBC or US outlets.

Does that matter?

In my opinion, it really doesn’t matter. The North Korean viewing public is a captive audience and likely has lower standards in terms of video production that those outside the country who have access to other news sources.

Another principle at work here is that it is harder to change someone’s mind than it is to reinforce an existing opinion.  North Koreans have been conditioned to accept government information as truth for generations so that the government can control the content and flow of information that their citizens receive.

The same work product would likely have little effect on Western Viewers who are able to explore a variety of alternative sources including www.defense.gov and military defense contractors such as http://www.lockheedmartin.com/ or their competitors such as: BAE Systems, Boeing, Cassidian (Airbus Military), Dassault Group, Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH, Finmeccanica, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Panavia Aircraft GmbH, Raytheon, and SAAB AB.

Reader feedback welcome as always.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

If MI is Deploying A Bde HQ – What About PSYOP/MISO?



I knew I was under the gun to post something today and was concerned I couldn’t find anything of interest until I found this piece of ‘news’.


On March 10, 2017 the Fayetteville (NC) Observer published an article headed “Military Intelligence soldiers head to Afghanistan” (see: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20170309/military-intelligence-soldiers-head-to-afghanistan; which is also the photo source). The article noted: “The brigade will assume the mission of Task Force Observe, Detect, Identify and Neutralize (ODIN), which is an Army aviation battalion chartered in 2006 to conduct reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition operations to defeat the threat of improvised explosive devices.
The battalion has been used to “win back the roads,” by conducting persistent missions over at-risk areas for improvised explosive devices, according to the Army.”
According to the Bde’s website “We are the Army’s Intelligence BDE of choice; providing rapidly deployable, multi-discipline support tailored to the warfighter. The Lightning BDE’s core tenant is P.R.I.D.E.-Professional, Ready, Innovative, Dedicated, and Effective.” (source: https://www.bragg.army.mil/index.php/units-tenants/xviii-airborne-co/525th-expeditionary-military-intelligence-brigade)

On March 15, 2017 Task and Purpose reported that “US Draws Up Plans For 1,000 More Troops in Syria as Raqqa Siege Looms (see: http://taskandpurpose.com/us-draws-plans-1000-troops-syria-raqqa-siege-looms/; source for photo at left.)

There have also been calls for bolstering US Troops in Afghanistan as featured in the NY Times of February 9, 2017 (“U.S. General Seeks ‘a Few Thousand’ More Troops in Afghanistan”, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/09/us/politics/us-afghanistan-troops.html?_r=0; photo source as well.)

I cannot comment on whether all of these developments are related, however, it does seem pretty clear that the OpTempo is picking up yet again. Given the current MISO Force strategy wherein the USAR PSYOP Groups support ‘the Big Army” and the active MISO Force supports Special Operations Forces this can only mean more action for both.

The MISO community is a small one and any OpTempo increase impacts the entire community.  This puts more pressure on the Reserve Force whose members have deployed extensively to Iraq and Afghanistan. These deployments have put pressure on families that may translate into a reduced Reserve force as family members are fatigued with prolonged absences and reenlistments decline preciptiously.

From a career perspective, even though Reserve soldiers have the protection of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) many careers have been torpedoed by repeated absences that are often not offset by comparable increases in health care and pension benefits.

Experience has shown that dominating the influence battlefield is the key to long-term victories. Iraq has clearly shown that failure to work with the country’s population and prepare them to help rebuild their will lead to yet more conflict.

Notwithstanding the impact on the Force, it would seem that America’s longest war in Afghanistan is nowhere close to ending. One wonders if we have learned our lessons from both Iraq and Afghanistan and if current our military strategy is putting as much emphasis on influence warfare as it seems to be on military operations and training.

Failure to help mature the media landscape to help foster peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and Iraq may turn out to be more catastrophic in the long run than any lapse in military expertise.

 


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Disinformation and Fake News Giving Propaganda A Good Name


On March 2, 2017 the Brookings Institute ran an article “Disinformation campaigns target tech-enabled citizen journalists” (see: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2017/03/02/disinformation-campaigns-target-tech-enabled-citizen-journalists/?utm_campaign=Brookings%20Brief&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=43768809 which is also the photo source).

The article starts out talking about how today’s technology is ubiquitous and plentiful. Consequently almost anyone with a smartphone can become a crusading reporter and expose wrongdoing. This can be especially problematic in countries where governments want to control their citizen’s perception of events.

The article talks about a “troll factory’ where disinformation artists are paid to alter the perceptions of citizens by pumping “Out fake information in efforts to obfuscate Russian war crimes in Ukraine and Syria and retaliate against Western investigators.

Several disinformation techniques are noted and touched upon.

All of this points to the need for more emphasis on countering disinformation efforts. Given the nature of disinformation and the sheer number of participants, perhaps the approach should be a very unPSYOP one – that is employ technical measures. If the Internet of Things (IoT) could be harnessed by criminals to launch Denial of Service attacks (see: https://arstechnica.com/security/2016/10/double-dip-internet-of-things-botnet-attack-felt-across-the-internet/ for example), why couldn’t the same technique be employed as a disinformation jammer?

I’ll leave that one to your imagination and your comments.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

UAVs – The New Commando Solo?


I had a bit of writer’s block and a dearth of material for this week’s posting so I decided to just surf around for a while and see what I could come up with. I started with one of the darlings of today’s battlefield – the UAV. For background I found: “Making The Most of New UAV Capabilities in Video/Broadcast Product” (see: http://www.creativeplanetnetwork.com/news/expertise/making-most-new-uav-capabilities-videobroadcast-production/610167; which is also a photo source).

The article was published in June 2015. Not exactly old, but not exactly new by Internet standards either. The article provides facts and insights into today’s broadcasting technology and urges the entertainment industry to learn how to employ UAVs in their work.

UAVs and MISO are made for each other.  

1.     PSYOP/MISO in Denied Areas

It seems to me that we will always need a need to project PSYOP/MISO broadcast products into denied areas. The areas may be denied because of the tactical situation the geography or because of a natural or man-made disaster.

2.     MSIO Specific Intelligence

UAVs could be used to recon a new AO from a PSYOP/MISO perspective. This would include obtaining imagery of billboards, posters and graffiti. It could also include surveying an urban area to determine the density of satellite dishes and traditional TV antennas.

3.     Alternative Platforms

If the current media landscape is unsuitable or uncooperative UAVs might be able to offer flexibility in delivering the message to the target audience employing an alternative transmission schema.

4.     Psychological Act (PSYACT) Possibilities

The Predator is a formidable weapons system. You can find the official US Air Force fact sheet at: http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/FactSheets/Display/tabid/224/Article/104469/mq-1b-predator.aspx (also a photo source). While originally used for surveillance and reconnaissance, the Hellfire Missile equipped UAV has been credited with a number of very successful terrorist attacks. Consequently a little creativity can help leverage the presence of even an unarmed UAV as a Psychological Act.

Of course the AO’s ROE will impact the use of UAVs and an emerging body of law concerning them, especially their impact on privacy may also factor into their use.

In any event, the UAV will undoubtedly emerge as an effective influence weapon as it has in its previous missions. Will they replace Commando Solo? At this point it is highly unlikely, but in fairness, we are now

only scratching the surface of their potential.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Communicating in An Urban Disaster


-->

PSYOP/MISO are often called upon to help out in Disaster Recovery by communicating information to those affected by the disaster.


San Jose is the 10th largest city in America with over 1 million people. The Coyote Creek runs north from Morgan Hill, CA. It is feed by Lake Anderson, a lake behind an earthen dam – Anderson Dam. For years the dam has needed seismic retrofitting and was supposed to be kept at 68%. Due to the recent rains here the dam was at 100%. A spillway is used to drain the water. The spillway flows into the creek which meanders through San Jose. If you Google “Rock Springs, San Jose” you’ll get a nice map.
At one point 14,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders. These were ‘delivered’ block by block. There was also wide spread TV and other media coverage.

. This week my wife and I are working for the Red Cross in support of the San Jose (CA) Coyote Creek Floods. My role is that of Lead Public Affairs Officer.
Government and community organizations needed to get information out to the affected people and the general public. The Red Cross opened two shelters to support those impacted by the disaster. Given this as background, here’s what I’ve learned so far this week.

1.     Almost everyone is glued to his or her cell phone.
2.     Charging stations and WiFi are more important than washers and dryers.
3.     Language skills are always useful. They are helpful in working the and of course, those impacted by the disaster.
4.     No matter how urbanized an area may be, you will need low-tech communication media. There is no substitute for face-to-face communications or flyers. Merely putting something on-line is not enough.
5.     As in war, no plan survives contact. The dynamics of a disaster and the effects on the population are always unpredictable.
6.     Once the disaster subsides, politicians will scramble to pin the blame elsewhere.
7.     Broadcast media channels are competitors. They are each scrambling to find the best images.
8.     Reporters and politicians say what they think their viewers/listeners or constituents are most likely to want to hear and not consider the big picture of what actions people should take or not take to lessen the suffering.

Reader input invited as always.

Photo Source: The Author

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Leaflets Still On The Job In Age of Social Media


While we are attached to our smartphones day and night, it’s useful to bear in mind that printed media such as leaflets are still powerful tools in today’s PSYOP arsenal.

Leaflets are still effective in hard to reach areas. Operation Inherent Resolve’s PSYOP team is employing leaflets in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. (see: https://www.dvidshub.net/news/217046/leaflet-use-finds-renewed-purpose-operation-inherent-resolve; which is also the photo source). For information on Operation Inherent Resolve, you can check out their web page at: http://www.inherentresolve.mil/

The 3rd Military Information Support BN, part of the 4th Military Information Support Group soldiers are deployed in support of operations in the Middle East. The article quotes the operations SGM for the Military Information Support Task Force (MISTF) who commented on the use of leaflets in denied areas:

“Creative ways to communicate must be found and used to ensure our message is received in denied territories.” “Recipients on the ground will sometimes take photos of the leaflets and post them on social media thus amplifying our message,” the operations sergeant major added.

Each ‘order’, or set of leaflets is custom tailored for that customer and that situation. Production is closer to the customer as a means of improving delivery time. The Production facility is located in Qatar rather than back at the US HQ at Fort Bragg, NC.

Teams rotate from Fort Bragg into Qatar, but the quality of the product and the spirits remain high. According to the SGM “The team has done amazing work,” he said. “The professionalism of the team led to every job being timely delivered even if it meant working extra hours or during scheduled down time. It was a pleasure working with a dedicated, mission-focused team.”
 
Of course leaflet deployment requires considerable planning. In addition to content, it’s import to consider how the audience will respond to paper fluttering down from the sky and to factor in the wind and other variables that will impact delivery.

The point is that today’s world is not all iPhones and FaceBook. Influence comes in a variety of flavors. PSYOP/MISO personnel must be conversant in a variety of media so that they can employ the best ones to the job at hand.

Friday, February 10, 2017

EW: The Forgotten PSYOP Weapon

-->

It’s been a pretty busy week and I almost didn’t make a posting. That is until I spotted an old piece about garage doors and the Navy. The headline reads “ Radio signal from U.S. Navy submarine base blamed for mystery of garage doors in Connecticut opening and closing at random” (see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2178027/Radio-signal-U-S-Navy-submarine-base-blamed-mystery-garage-doors-Connecticut-opening-closing-random.html; which is also the photo source).

The essence of the story is that radio signals from the Naval Submarine Base New London (which gives its street address as Groton, CT) were the probable cause of the bewitched garage doors. The sub base noted that the signals were part of the Enterprise Land Mobile Radio (ELMR) System.  A quick Google search came up with RadioReference.com which claims that “This system is deprecated, and may no longer be in use or is superseded by another system. (see: http://www.radioreference.com/apps/db/?sid=6804)

Having started my career in the EW/SIGINT world I know that there are good things and bad things associated with jamming. For those of you who are not EW aficionados, jamming means overpower a friendly signal so that its intended receiver cannot receive it.

The good news is that you can deny the enemy the effective use of his transmitters be they radios, television broadcasting or mobile phones. The bad news is that it’s not stealthy. Targets generally know when they have been jammed.  Another element is that jamming is generally a broad based weapon meaning all electronics are effected; although there are some ways to jam only selected frequencies.

The use of EW can also have a psychological effect. For example if an enemy force feels that they are not only surrounded physically, but they are cutoff electronically, this may induce them to surrender.

While TTP should dictate that EW should easily be brought into play, this is not necessarily the case. The tactical fighter typically does not have EW resources on hand. Furthermore, a sophisticated analysis needs to be performed of the impact zone of the proposed jamming to determine the nature of collateral impact.

What does this all mean?

It means that the MISO CDR needs to be thoroughly familiar with and connected to their counterparts in other disciplines. Today’s posting scratches the surface about EW. The posting urges MISO CDR not to overlook adapting tools of warfare that have not typically been included in PSYOP or MISO.

Reader comments invited as always.
I’m presenting at the RSA Conference in San Francisco next week – shoot me a comment if you want to connect.