Friday, April 11, 2014

Senior PSYOP


Over the years I’ve blogged about world events and many exotic locations. Today’s subject matter is much more close to home. In June of 2010 my wife and I moved into an “Over 55 Community”. I prefer to call it El Pueblo Para Los Viejos.

Since many of my fellow residents are fully retired, they often have nothing much to do besides play golf (which I don’t). This also means there is a crisis of some sort going on all the time.

They range from what do about the deer population (one jumped over a 3 foot fence to munch on my roses on our patio) to swimming hours for children, to whether or not we need a new gym.

The latest brouhaha is about changing the Community’s extensive set of by-laws. The substance is not important, but I thought some of leaflets being dropped in my mailbox were pretty good PSYOP/MISO examples and that it was worthwhile to share.

First of all the creators of this leaflet knew their audience and knew them well. They were intimately aware of past crises and things that people are passionate about.

Golf and Tennis are two key activities here, so focusing on them was a great idea. The cartoons are easy to understand and put the reader in the picture immediately.

The other two address recent controversies and are equally well done.

The text is minimal. It’s in larger type making it easier to read and showing familiarity with the audience.

The desired action stands out – BIGGER BOLDER LETTERS!

I should add that the campaigns (on both sides) have featured flyers, e-mails and letters to the editor of the Community Newspapers.

Bottom Line: Unlike many other skills you might learn in the service, your PSYOP/MISO background will be valuable to you throughout your life.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

All Atwitter About USAID’s Twitter for Cuba


The Associated Press report that “US Secretly Created ‘Cuban Twitter’ To Stir Unrest (see: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/us-secretly-created-cuban-twitter-stir-unrest which is also the photo source.) The mission of USAID is: “Our Mission: We partner to end extreme poverty and to promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity.” (Source: http://www.usaid.gov/who-we-are/mission-vision-values).

The article describes a two year program purportedly set up to undermine the Cuban government by providing a communication media outside the Cuban government’s control. The article indicated that the program lasted about two years and vanished as suddenly as it appeared.

Some big questions pop-up here. First of all, assuming this is all true – does this mean that the Department of State (DoS) has expanded its influence role beyond public diplomacy? Where would USAID get the capabilities and resources both technologically and content-wise to set-up and run such an operation?

Another obvious one for the MISO Community (perhaps not answerable in this venue) is what sort of involvement, if any did the DoD have?

Rather than tread where I shouldn’t let me turn the conversation in a different direction. Now that the Army Cyber Command is entrenched at Fort Gordon – should the military version of this sort of operation be part of Cyber Command or part of MISO?

One could argue that the technology is pure cyber or one could argue that the technology is so mainstream that no special technical depth is required. A strong argument could be made for the fact that technical folks are not content savvy and that content needs to be developed by those with MISO skills.

It’s also possible that the force of the future (and not too distant future) will have cyber skills just as they have rifle and pistol skills today. We have seen that cyber skills are necessary with conventional forces as shown in the Ukraine and our experience in other conflicts shows the need for cyber in conventional and asymmetric settings.

I recognize that my readers are not totally neutral on the subject, and look forward to comments from the field.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

MISO: Into the Dark with Special Ops?


According to Time Magazine’s website on 27 Mar 2014, Special Operations Forces were seeking geospatial data on places where data was hard to come by. (see http://time.com/37677/us-special-ops-dark-areas/).

The article references a Statement of Work (SOW), which can be found at: http://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/fbo_revised_hgis_sow20mar14.pdf.

The initial data set is described as: Jordan, Djibouti, Burma (Myanamar), Honduras, Iran, Morocco, Nigeria, Trinidad & Tobago, Burkina Faso, S. Sudan, N. Korea and China’s Guangdong province.

Among the data sought is:
Media outlet locations and coverage (IId)
GSM tower locations
Internet café locations and ownership information

At first I was tempted to put on my MI hat to figure out how this particular list of countries came about. Of course, that would have caused me to wonder why there would be geospatial gaps in places you might consider our metaphorical backyard such as Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago.

Nevertheless, I am going to avoid that temptation and consider what are the MISO/PSYOP aspects involved. I’m sure that I have posted about the lack of good media related data I found when I served in Bosnia and how the traditional CJ2 channels were of no help either. I reasoned that because there was no commercial interest in the country, advertisers would be scarce and logically there wouldn’t be a need for data related to media to bolster a non-existent advertising marketplace.

A logical starting point for MISO planning would be to determine what military operations would likely be conducted (if any) and to what extent these operations might require MISO support. Alternatively a MISO planner would have to consider which of these countries would not likely host military operations, but where the influence battle might be fought in the civilian media.

Alternatively, it would be prudent to consider which of these countries might be the site of violence and loss of government control to the point where a NEO or humanitarian/disaster relieve operation may be appropriate.

No matter what your view, these are exciting times to ponder the future of MISO, especially in what the Special Ops calls ‘dark’ places and I often refer to as “off Broadway”

Reader input invited as always.
Photo Source: http://www.ttconnect.gov.tt/gortt/portal/ttconnect/SharedDetail/?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/gortt/wcm/connect/gortt+web+content/TTConnect/Home/About+T+and+T/Festivals+and+Holidays

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Time for PSYOP ferret flights?



A mainstay of the Cold War was the ferret flight. The ferret flight was designed to smoke out the enemy's likely actions in the event of an air attack. Aircraft would flight towards the border which would trigger radars, anti-aircraft defenses and other responses. Of course, the aircraft would never leave friendly airspace and would turn around once they had come close enough to accomplish their mission.

For those of you that missed the Cold War, it looks like you have the chance to be a part of Cold War Version 2.0. Instead of Stalin or Khrushchev we have the  more cagey, but no less ruthless Mr. Putin. Unlike the others Mr. Putin can boast an intelligence background which may figure into his decision making process and perhaps American him more formidable because of it.

Putin also has the advantage of facing a contemplative oriented rather than an action prone US President.

Like his predecessors, Mr. Putin doesn't seem to fear economic sanctions and is also quite keen on adapting the latest weaponry to include cyber.

To be sure Putin is a strong guy and he is probably not the best influence target. What do we know about those around him? Do we believe that there are others that covet his power? Is there a portion of the population of Russia that can influence his future actions? Are there ways to alter the influence landscape in Crimea?

Given the use of "militias" in the Crimea and Ukraine, how should we craft MISO tactics against them? In addition to the need for newly minted Russian linguists, what other Cyrillic based languages need to be a part of recruiting and the DLI funnel?

Perhaps one of the most salient challenges would be to come up with a way to test new options without risking the lives of those behind the newly reinforced Iron Curtain. We also need to hone MISO doctrine aimed at paramilitary forces, which, as in Crimea, are a hallmark of Russian forces and most of those nations in their sphere of influence.

We are often accused of being ready to fight the last war, in the case of Cold War II, we should be better prepared, because we are certainly forewarned.

Photo Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boris_natasha_fearless.jpg
From left to right, characters made famous in the Bullwinkle the Moose Cartoons - Boris Badenov, Natasha Fetale and Fearless Leader

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cyber PSYOP and the Crimea



The Russian invasion of the Crimea and the turmoil in Ukraine are all over the news. This most recent aggression seems to be following the pattern set in Georgia and other countries perceived to rightly belong in the Russian sphere of influence.

A tried and true Russian tactic is to control all communications one way or another. By one way or another I mean through people such as managing the state controlled media or via old fashioned kinetic action as described in the Feb 28, 2013 article “Telecom services sabotaged in Ukraine’s Crimea region” (see: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2014/02/28/Telecom-services-sabotaged-in-Ukraines-Crimea-region/7611393621345/ which is also the photo source)

NATO to include the US appears to have ruled out military action, however the notion of Cyber influence in this particular case seems to have a great deal of merit.

One of the advantages of being an Armchair Colonel is that you can ponder almost anything with detachment. Given the demographics of the Ukraine, one would think that if the intended audience was the Ukrainian population, then a cyber-campaign focusing on mobile phones would be in order.
Multiple sources claim that there are about 60 million mobile phones and 12 million land line phones used in the Ukraine. Presumably these totals reflect devices bought from carriers within the country and do not reflect devices brought in by travelers and others. The CIA Factbook showed 7.7 million Internet users back in 2009. Given the above it would appear that cyber PSYOP would be appropriate.

From an infrastructure perspective, there is only one land-line provider in Crimea, Ukretelcom  (see http://en.ukrtelecom.ua/).  Wikipedia lists 7 Mobile phone companies of Ukraine (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Mobile_phone_companies_of_Ukraine). AT&T’s website says that they work through a number of carriers: Beeline, Kyvivstar, Life, MTS and Ukrtelecom. Verizon’s website says that Voice, Data, Messaging, Picture and video are available from Ukraine.

However, perhaps a more intriguing audience would be the invading force themselves. Like soldiers from anywhere, these troops want to stay in touch if they can so it is likely that they have brought their own mobile phones. If so, they might represent a more lucrative influence target.

A campaign working either audience could consist of a family of SMS messages with a predetermined pace and repetition factor. Alternatively, barraging (similar to SPAM) of appropriate ISPs (assuming they’re up and functioning) could be another avenue of influence attack. One could adopt a combination of SPAM and phishing tactics to accomplish the influence goals.

From an intelligence perspective, if the commercial networks are down due to Russian aggression, perhaps there is a network of Ham radio operators who are able to communicate to the outside world and provide the eyes on view.
Reader contributions encouraged.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Doing is harder than thinking.


I’m delighted to get the opportunity of actually ‘doing’ MISO a couple of times a year for the past several years. I get to portray the IO Officer on a two star Admiral’s staff for an exercise. This means I’m the go to guy for all things PSYOP/MISO, EW and CNO.

While I certainly enjoy pontificating on the major high level problems of our day, being in the hot seat and having to develop FragOs, themes and messages while planning for, requesting and moving the MISO resources around requires a much more detailed perspective.

Many of the exercise players have had experience with MISO while others have none. So I have to be ready to answer questions and provide coaching and tutoring as needed.

This semi-annual deep dive gives me an appreciation for the kind of challenges MISO professionals face ever day, albeit in a rarefied atmosphere. Much of what we do requires creativity and cultural sensitivity related to those we are seeking to influence, while a good portion of our success is also related to personnel skills, military bearing and the ability to work with all ranks – both very senior and very junior to your own.

Once again, I am blessed to be a part of the Regiment.

Photo Source: http://www.interludeunscripted.com/category/features/literature-features/


Friday, February 14, 2014

Support Your PSYOP Regimental Association

“We’ve come a long way baby.” Was the slogan of a cigarette company but it certainly applies to the PSYOP Regiment. The PRA has leap frogged itself as the Center of Gravity for the Regiment. They have taken advantage of their Fort Bragg location and some of the latest technology to offer significant benefits to our members.

While we are still served by the PSYOP Association and the PSYOP Veterans Association, the PRA has become a force for the regiment and our future.


If you are not a member, take a moment and check out their website at: http://www.psyopra.com/ which is also the photo source.