Friday, August 28, 2015

National Military Strategy: Implications for MISO and Influence Operations

 The latest US National Military Strategy (NMS) was published in June 2015 (, which is also the photo source.) Conceptually it is derived from the National Security Strategy (NSS) released in February 2015 and which can be found at:

Those of us with military experience know that ‘stuff’ rolls down hill and the impact of strategic documents is a good example. However, it is often hard to figure out what the direct impacts will be – impacts to be felt within the next couple of years.

The NMS mentions a number of nation states: Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, etc. However, it is clear that the emphasis is on non-state actors, especially Violent Extremist Organizations (VEO).

Here are a couple of quotes WRT VEO.

“But it (the NMS) also asserts that the application of the military instrument of power against state threats is very different than the application of military power against non-state threats. We are more likely to face prolonged campaigns than conflicts that are resolved quickly…that control of escalation is becoming more difficult and more important…and that as a hedge against unpredictability with reduced resources, we may have to adjust our global posture.”

“In this complex strategic security environment, the U.S. military does not have the luxury of focusing on one challenge to the exclusion of others. It must provide a full range of military options for addressing both revisionist states and VEOs. Failure to do so will result in greater risk to our country and the international order.”

Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs) are taking advantage of emergent technologies as well, using information tools to propagate destructive ideologies, recruit and incite violence, and amplify the perceived power of their movements. They advertise their actions to strike fear in opponents and generate support for their causes.”

The NMS then goes on to identify 3 National Military Objectives:
1. Deter, deny, and defeat state adversaries.
2. Disrupt, degrade, and defeat violent extremist organizations.
3. Strengthen our global network of allies and partners.”

Accomplishing these objectives will require a versatile, resilient and flexible force. From an influence operations perspective, this means seamlessly reinforcing information objectives across all forces and media. This implies that all of the services, the PAO and others in the mix are all in synch and orchestrated to support the CDR’s influence objectives.

One of the glaring issues is the cyber influence world. LTG Cardon, the CG of the Army’s Cyber Command has proposed that his agency be the proponent for influence in the cyber realm (see:

The article quotes Cardon’s simplistic vision: “Under Cardon's vision, Signal Corps officers would manage communications systems, public affairs staff would oversee information operations and develop social media applications, and military intelligence units would collect and record top-secret data for the Army Cyber Command.”

These comments strike me as intelligence indicators that the responsibility for directing and carrying out the influence war is murky at best. Anyone who has ever worked with Public Affairs knows that they are very cautious about working with other influence organizations for fear of ‘contaminating’ their position.

As the new leaders at the Joint Chiefs level come into place and the Presidential election starts to come into focus, we can only expect more turmoil and less continuity.

As Lou Costello once said: “Who’s on 1st ?”

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Trolls to replace PSYOPers?

It’s no secret that many governments have discovered the importance of social media. One on-line article attracted my attention (see: Intelligence officials were quoted as having said: “There is a concern that social media campaigns orchestrated by overseas powers could distort open-source intelligence gathering”.

During disasters, much like combat, there ‘s a fog as to what is really going on. In my role as a Red Cross volunteer I’ve learned to appreciate how ‘tweets’ can be a barometer of public perception of a disaster. The amount of tweets rises and falls in line with the public’s perception of the severity of the event.

It’s also probably fair to say that there is some sort of ‘bandwagon’ effect whereby lots of tweets and social media activity spurs even more. If a government (or non-state actor) were able to distort the frequency and content of social media to the point where they were actually shaping it, this would be a great for them.

It could be a double play in the sense of they have distorted the truth and secondly are able to influence more people to think or behave in their direction.

The article emphasizes how the Russians were able to impact social media after the MH17 crash in the Ukraine.

The implication for the PSYOP/MISO community is clear. There needs to be a balance between ‘new’ and ‘old’ influence mechanisms. Unfortunately the tendency in today’s world is for the US government to classify anything and everything that is cyber, just as they did for SIGINT a half-century ago.

 MISO requires synergistic ways and means. Cyber and traditional influence operations must work seamlessly together to reinforce each other. Social media influence will continue to be pivotal. Hopefully cyber influencers will be able to work well with their military counterparts and others to optimize the use of influence operations as a national power.

Photo Source:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Influence Operations and the Treatment of Journalists

The NY Times of August 10, 2015 ran an OpEd “The Pentagon and the Wartime Press”, when I went on line to give y’all a URL reference, I couldn’t help but notice that the on-line title was “The Pentagon’s Dangerous Views on the Wartime Press” (see:; which is also the photo source).

The source, Law of War Manual can be found at:

The OpEd is concerned with the US DOD treatment of journalists. It is more or less implied that journalists provide a vital and Constitutionaly protected service by informing US citizens about what their military is doing.

While I haven’t read the Manual, I will make the assumption that the Manual is trying to provide ‘guidance’ for OPSEC purposes, not to muzzle the press.

We all realize that careless reporting, like careless use of Social Media can have dire consequences in combat and it’s always useful to have a source to help justify actions.

Unfortunately I have to characterize the Gray Lady’s piece as a knee jerk, out of context, arm-waving diatribe.

However, the point of this posting is not to critique the piece, but rather cause a pause in the ‘community’.

Our world is outside the US. MISO take place outside the US and are addressed to foreign audiences. Of necessity foreign audiences include foreign journalists.

Public Affairs is the lead organization for working with foreign media and there is absolutely no question that this is the case. MISO often needs to optimize foreign media support for the CDR’s goals and operations.

MISO often functions as an advertiser in foreign media and can retain writers and journalists in foreign markets to develop work in foreign media that supports the CDR. In some cases this may rise to the level where MISO becomes the champion of selected foreign media to help them get the support they need to tell our story.

One of the elements missing in the OpEd is that most overseas operations are not undertaken by the US alone. General McChrystal noted 46 countries taking part in Afghanistan. Not having deployed recently – I look to y’all to advise whether or not the US rules for journalists was the SOP for Coalition forces and to comment on whether the Coalition partners all followed the US rules or if they took certain liberties either with their own national media or ‘favored’ foreign media.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cecil and PSYOP

The US media has joined the Social Media frenzy in lambasting the dentist who purportedly paid over $US50,000 to hunt and kill Cecil the iconic lion in Zimbawae.

One of the more interesting takes on this story had nothing to do with the virtue or lack thereof in the big game hunting trophy business, rather that article “If Cecil Circus: If He Only Had A Gun” (see:, which is also the photo source.)

The article has a simple, yet intriguing premise: “With limited choices for news, even in the 24 hour news cycle, why do we even have a story about a lion? In no imaginable circumstance is this lion relevant enough to make it to the front page of anyone’s paper when there are major drastic issues to be faced on a daily basis.”

The article goes on to become a very enlightening piece on PSYOP targeting. The author paints a case that appealing to the baser instincts of the small number of media companies that have millions of ‘followers’ can result in a massive impact on human behavior.

The article postulates that all the media attention won’t help Cecil nor any future big game targets. But that’s not the point, the point is that a small coterie of media companies control mass impressions – that’s an important point in PSYOP targeting.

Oh, what does the author say is the way to try and eliminate future victims like poor Cecil: “If you really care about Cecil, stop buying things made in China because while one dentist killed one lion, the vast majority of wildlife are killed for weird remedies in China. Or maybe you should stop buying things made in Japan, since the Japanese routinely slaughter thousands of dolphins for meat.
They would listen to the loss of money. That is the one value system most of the world can agree on and it is the point to how it all works. The media shows you something to make money, and they distract you from other things that might lose them money. The truth has no monetary value.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Military As A Career Booster, The Draw Down – What does it mean to you?

Today’s posting was triggered by the article: “Should I Join The Military To Advance My Career?

 (See:, which is also the photo source.

I thought it would be helpful for my to offer my perspective as a semi-retired dude to those of you who are just starting or are down the career path. Perhaps it’s because I had lunch with 3 of my 4 grandchildren yesterday and think about their future often.

I strongly believe that a military stint is an incredibly valuable experience. It may not lead to a career and you certainly won’t enjoy every moment, but you will (as the article states) be changed – for the better. You will find you can do things you never thought possible and that you may actually have an affinity for leadership or for one or more of the particular skills you’ve picked up or expanded upon in the military.

My advice is pick a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) that appeals to you, perhaps one that expands on your previous education or aptitude. As the article points out – it’s probably smarter to pick a specialty that can easily translate into civilian skills.

A MISO Tactical Team Leader is a great example. You are not only the manager of a team, but you are dealing with influencing people every day. You need to have the discipline to make a plan and carry it out. In most cases the tactical team is engaged in some kind of activity requiring interacting with people of all types – a very valuable skill.

While we constant debate whether or not PSYOP/MISO = marketing and sales, I believe we can certainly explain to future employers how our military experience will help their company succeed. 

It's clear that the shape of the military is changing. The active force is being reduced significantly and there may or may not be trade offs between uniformed positions and contractors. Whatever the outcome, your military experience will make you a better person and a stronger candidate for that next job.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

General McChrystal Talks About Leadership


One July 15, 2015 I attended a “Meet The Author” session with General (R) Stanley McChrystal held at the Marines Memorial Club in San Francisco. (see:

I had never met the General before, and my only previous impressions came from the media. The overwhelming one of which that his staff let him down by not doing their job with the Rolling Stone reporter (see:

While the General may be 60 he clearly projects confidence and energy. During his hour long talk (without notes) he came across as focused, direct and in this setting, candid. While I’ll admit that the moderator threw only ‘softball’ (easy) questions at him, the General’s comments spoke for themselves.

He was promoting his new book: Team of Teams (see: about leadership, especially of large, diverse groups.  The central thesis of the book is that you need to treat teams as if they were individuals so that the teams in turn can effectively interact with other teams just as individuals reinforce, support and help each other.

His talk centered on his experience in command of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

ISAF, he told us, was composed of forces from 45 nations, each with their own particular national agenda, yet seeking strong direction from their boss. His job was to foster unity of effort – which was no mean feat.

The General described how he faced a new kind of enemy. One that was not organized in the traditional hierarchical way, but rather a loose network that was enabled by real time communications using mobile phones and the Internet. This enemy didn’t react in a predictable templated way like conventional forces from the Cold War or the World Wars. Rather this enemy was agile and didn’t play by any rules.

In this environment, the General noted, you were an enabler of those working with you, not an oracle from which all decisions would emanate. He learned this during his career. He commented on the evolution to this conclusion from his early self as a junior officer where he only wanted to learn the craft of soldiering, and always wanted to be in charge.

The General explained that historically senior military leaders envisioned themselves at chessboards facing an equal opponent. Today each of the opponent’s pieces is intelligent and independent. They also communicate with each other, work together, and do not follow particular rules.

He compared today’s senior leader to a gardener. The gardener’s job is to enable the plants to do what they do best – grow. The leader does the feeding, water, weeding, and harvesting thereby providing the best possible environment for his plants to grow, or in this case for the diverse forces to act with a unified sense of direction.

The General was quick to point out the dangers of micromanagement, particularly of strong, independent teams. “Eyes on, hands off” was the way he described his leadership still. The leader’s job is to instill confidence across the force.

He did point out that technology is a micromanager’s dream tool because the senior leader can see and communicate directly with the lowest echelon. Quickly the General added that this would be a mistake. The leader has a far-off, two dimensional view while the force on the ground was right there and could feel the pulse of the battle.

When asked about managing start-ups, the General felt that employees were not motivated purely by money. He felt that the attraction of being part of a team, having a cause/vision to believe in and being successful was far more powerful of an incentive then mere money.

After the talk the General was gracious enough to sign an untold number of autographs. He was charming, patient and concentrated on each and every person who met with him.

It’s easy to say why he inspired the loyalty of his forces.

Photo Source: The Author

Monday, July 6, 2015

Stars & Bars: The Power of Symbolism

Say what you will about what it stands for, but the latest debate over the Confederate Flag and the passion behind it clearly show the power of symbols.

Passion has been aroused on both sides of the Confederate Flag issue. Advocates and opponents are voicing their opinions and taking actions. While perhaps the debate’s center of gravity is the old Confederacy which has evolved even more in many ways – socially – economically – politically than even the past 200 years since the Civil War.

We can all agree that the Stars and Bars has galvanized people into action.

Isn’t that the essence of PSYOP?

A recent article in the on-line publication, The Havok Journal considers whether or not the flag’s historical connotation should be erased just as Pharaoh ordered Moses’ name stricken from the obelisks and pyramids of Biblical Egypt. (See: which is also the photo source.)

No matter what the outcome of the debate. Several things are pretty certain in my mind.
1.     No one will look at the Confederate Flag quite the same way again.
2.     Disaffected groups and individuals will use the Confederate Flag as a rally point or justification for their anti-social beliefs and actions or tools for other nefarious purposes.
·      The unintended consequences of restricting use of the symbol have not been a factor of the decision making process.
·      The flag may be used to arouse flag opponents.
·      Criminals may employ the image as a part of a cyber scam – click here if you hate the flag or vice versa.
·      Hacktivist groups such as Anonymous may take cyber action against groups they feel are not sensitive enough and continue to display the flag on-line.
3.     The PSYOP/MISO Community should step back and appreciate the raw power of historical symbols and take a fresh look at current operations and the possibility of applying this lesson.

This post represents a different perspective than I normally take. Please let me know what you think – one way or the other.