Thursday, February 26, 2015

Flip Flops: Economic PSYOP


Influencing behavior takes many forms. Giving a people a way out is often one of the better, long term solutions. The theory goes if you can provide an acceptable alternative behavior that benefits the audience and supports your goals & objectives, you ought to try it.

The article on combat flip-flops (see: http://gizmodo.com/two-ex-army-rangers-believe-flip-flops-and-sarongs-will-1687822266, which is also the photo source) presents a pretty compelling argument.

PSYOP working in tandem with Civil Affairs and PAO would support these efforts and help turn insurgents into productive citizens.

Which leads perhaps to a more interesting question and that is – should the mission of PSYOP be expanded to include occupational and business training? PSYOP (MISO) Teams are in the best position to work face to face with local populations. While training foreign citizens has traditionally been the purview of Special Forces, perhaps the time has come to split that function out of SF and into a ‘gentler’ force thereby enabling SF to concentrate on more appropriate missions.

Reader comments encouraged.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The SecDef Has Style






Anyone who can easily pass bi-partisan scrutiny in this day and age must have something going. When that same individual seems to be actually good at his job, that’s a bonus!

The new SecDef is just such a person. His confirmation sailed through unlike the turbulent experience of some of his predecessors and he wasted no time to head to ‘the sound of guns’. While we hope the SecDef doesn’t hear any guns, he certainly headed to the biggest trouble spot.

In the days of videoconferences it is quite reassuring to see the SecDef meet with his key players live. There is no substitute for person-to-person contact. While video conferences may be cost effective, they cannot provide the venue to size some one up and forge the kind of trust that is a part of combat operations.

I’m also supportive of changing the public face of the Pentagon. Rear Admiral John Kirby was a successful Pentagon spokesperson. However, he wore a uniform. There is a certain psychology at work in press conferences. The Commander-in-Chief is an elected civilian and those serving in the military are bound to carry out his lawful orders whether or not those orders are agreed with.

Military personnel consider ourselves straight shooters and I personally believe that having a civilian in the position of defending political defense decisions makes a great deal of sense.

Getting back to the SecDef, The Washington Post (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/carter-summons-us-military-commanders-diplomats-to-kuwait/2015/02/22/0d06c36e-baab-11e4-b274-e5209a3bc9a9_story.html) article addresses the meeting in Kuwait. Attendees are a combination of military and diplomatic personnel – the team on the ground.
As one ‘anonymous’ staffer was quoted: ““He’s just the kind of guy who likes to dig.” Let’s hope that the digging makes its way to the influence battlefield.
(Photo source: http://www.defense.gov/dodcmsshare/homepagephoto/2015-02/hires_150223-D-NI589-110.JPG; Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left, meets with the emir of Kuwait Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah in Kuwait City, Feb. 23, 2015. DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

PSYOP on the Border?




A recent article about NG deployments in support of security our border with Mexico caught my eye. (See: http://www.stripes.com/news/us/unprecedented-deployment-has-guardsmen-feeling-strain-of-border-mission-1.329060).

I’m wondering if MISO engaged from US soil and targeted against smugglers and would be illegal border crossers would:
1.     Be legal.
2.     Serve national goals.
3.     Provide a significant training opportunity.

As I understand the current legal environment MISO (PSYOP) cannot be conducted against US citizens. While the spirit of the law may mean (and one would have to do some research on legislative intent, etc) that such operations shouldn’t be conducted on US soil, the text does not say that.

Given the above, I believe MISO initiated on US soil against foreign targets is legal.

Would this activity support national objectives? If deterring illegal entry is a national objective and the MISO were effective, it would be logical to conclude that these kinds of operation would support national objectives.

As for training, there are rich opportunities. The environment would facilitate field craft skills, foreign language skills, Spanish in particular would be exercised, and there are a variety of media that could be employed.

These can include mobile phones, loud speakers, and leaflets (wind permitting of course). Selected PsyActs such as helicopter flights on the US side of the border might be useful as well. Perhaps even social media. Social media likely being on thin ice so to speak.

I am not aware of these kinds of operations being conducted, so reader input on the history and potential would be appreciated.

Photo Source: http://www.theyucatantimes.com/2014/09/national-guard-adjusts-to-its-new-role-on-the-mexico-u-s-border/

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

77th Bde – Rebranding of the 15th PSYOPS Group?












Computerworld UK (see: http://www.computerworlduk.com/news/public-sector/3596459/british-army-set-up-facebook-warriors-unit/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_board, which is also the photo source) and other media have reported that the British military is standing up a 1,500 person Social Media Warrior Battalion. Dubbed the 77th Bde (which of course is bigger than a BN), it will be a composite unit made up of reserve forces (Territorial Army) and fleshed out with active forces taken from the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

One wonders if this is simply a re-launch and renaming of the former 15th PSYOPS Group (see: https://wikispooks.com/wiki/15_%28UK%29_Psychological_Operations_Group).

While there is no doubt that PSYOP is an important battlefield multiplier, one wonders if the Brits would actually devote such a large force to address these missions when their defense budget overall is under a great deal of pressure.

The article goes on to state: “It is part of a wider ‘Army 2020’ plan to reduce the size of the regular Army from 91,600 in 2013 to 82,000 regular troops by 2017 and recruit at least 11,000 reserve soldiers to help meet the shortfall.”

It’s worth a moment to analyze this statement. If we take the statements together at face value it would appear that the British military will include combined units of active and reserve personnel. It would be reasonable to assume that the personnel strategy would be to have a small core and expand the core as needed. If so, the unit personnel would be housed together and presumably train together.

Sounds like a model worth considering.

Reader feedback, especially those with first hand knowledge of the UK force structure is much appreciated.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Ghost Army: The PSYOP Movie!




A week or two ago my wife and I went to see “American Sniper”. I’m actually one of the very few veterans in my social circle, especially veterans who have been overseas and often get asked about my opinion of all things military related, so I felt it was a good idea.

I’ve never been to Iraq or Afghanistan and in my Viet Nam and Bosnia tours I was lucky enough not to be in the thick of things. Nevertheless, I too faced readjustment issues. I thought Bradley Cooper did an outstanding job showing how Chris Kyle changed over his tours and upon his return. Movies are powerful experiences.

By chance my wife was watching “Ghost Army” on PBS (http://www.pbs.org/program/ghost-army/). I thought I knew quite a bit about deception efforts in WWII, but I was totally wrong, I didn’t know sh*t. Turns out the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops combined Military Deception and PSYOP (MISO) on an unprecedented scale. They were tasked with ‘replacing’ designated units to make the enemy think a lightly manned area was actually heavily manned and at times to deceive the enemy as to the location of key forces such as armor and artillery.

They used visual deception with blow up versions of tanks and artillery. This was supplemented with loudspeaker sounds to match. Rounding out the deception involved the use of fake radio traffic, painting vehicles with the unit designations and walking/driving around the AO wearing patches of the impersonated unit as well.

The time has come for a PSYOP movie about the Ghost Army. It’s perfect! Easy to understand, has historical precedence and I’m sure George Clooney would jump at the chance to be in uniform again.
 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Syria: Be A Student of Teaching




Reports indicate that the US is sending 1,000 trainers as well as security and logistical support to aid the Syrian rebels against Daesh. (see for instance: http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2015/01/16/syrian-trainers-deploying/21873945/, which is also the photo source.) The Pentagon press release can be found at: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=123989

According to Admiral Kirby (pictured) the purpose of the training is: “to get them ready to defend their own citizens and communities, to eventually go on the defensive against ISIL inside Syria, and to help them work with political opposition leaders toward a political solution in Syria.”

There were also additional trainers sent to Iraq for training missions as well.

I feel that this would be a perfect opportunity for MISO personnel to function as trainers for basic military skills, not MISO. MISO NCOs in particular are held to a higher standard of performance of these skills than the rank and file and are generally able to relay these skills to others.

By teaching and working with these students I believe that MISO personnel will gain a deeper understanding of how these students think and are motivated. This knowledge would serve them well in future assignments in the Middle East and probably in other areas of the world where student learning style is quite different from the typical “Western” learner.

Reader comments invited.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Surveys and Conflict


The community has always been in a dither about Measures of Effectiveness. Measuring the attitudes of a popular is often difficult under the best of circumstances, in areas of conflict – they’re a real challenge.

The January 6, 2015 edition featured an article: “How to make surveys in war zones better and why this is import” (See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/01/06/how-to-make-surveys-in-war-zones-better-and-why-this-is-important/ =- which is also the photo source.

I’ve had the opportunity to do surveys in both worlds – military and commercial. My personal experience is they’re never easy. In either case you have to determine who are the right people to survey, then how to reach them. Once you reach them they have to be incented enough to complete the survey in an honest, timely, and accurate manner.

After you get the results back you have to verify that you indeed got to the right people and that they were honest in their reflections.

These steps are often very difficult if not impossible in a military context. If you are trying to gauge the people’s opinion about the troops in their country clearly you can’t use those troops to do the survey.

You also have to be very careful who you contract with to do the survey work because everyone seems to have their own agenda and these personal agendas can pollute the entire data pool.

The article contains some good for thought and is worth a read.

Happy 2015 to one and all.