Tuesday, December 23, 2008

PSYOP Post Iraq Pullout Role – Back to Fort Apache?



With the inauguration of President-elect Obama a scant 4 weeks away, much is being written about the projected pullback of ‘combat troops’ from major cities by June 30, 2009.



A typical article appeared in the NY Times on December 21 – “With Pullout Deadlines Comes Effort to Redefine Role of US Military in Iraq” (see http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/22/washington/22combat.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=%22With%20Pullout%20Deadlines%22&st=cse)

While no one would doubt that ‘some’ troops will have to remain in Iraq beyond the June date, there are no exact figures. One expert quoted by the Times predicted that “roughly 10,000 American troops should remain in Baghdad after next June, with thousands more in other cities around the country”.

What does this mean for PSYOP?

For starters it looks like dispersed US forces will be housed in garrisons discretely positioned outside cities, yet poised to apply lethal force when needed. If anything, the need for information engagement is now increased and the resources to support it, especially security have become more attenuated.

DOD has touted the overall training provided to the Iraqi Army, but it is unclear exactly what kind of PSYOP or Public Affairs Officer (PAO) training has been provided. Consequently while the tactical presence may be appropriately offset by having US forces out of the cities, it does not follow that information engagement will be diminished simply because the ‘combat’ troops are not deployed inside the cities.

US CDRs at all levels down to and including companies have come to realize the importance of PSYOP and PAO. It follows that each garrison will need at least one Tactical PSYOP Team (TPT) and that these teams will have to be tied together with Reachback type support to include common messages, pre-produced products and the ability to quickly respond to enemy television propaganda offensives. Needless to say the teams must be backed with reliable interpreter support, preferably from individuals who come from the area surrounding the garrison. This distributed configuration will very likely require a high level of maturity and relationship building capability than found in a normal tactical situation. This is due to the fact that the deployed US force will remain fixed and must develop long term positive relationships with their Iraqi counterparts, Iraqi media, local leaders and the population at large.

In this configuration the TPT must maintain close communication with the MNF PAO and any Iraqi personnel involved with information engagement. It is possible that the shibboleths of mixing PAO and PSYOP have not infected the new Iraqi hierarchy so that a few individuals can accomplish both missions within a single organization, however, this may not be the case so that the firewalling between PAO and PSYOP may still exist within the new Iraqi infrastructure.

The PSYOP Task Force (POTF) HQ in the post pullout world will more closely resemble a corporate marketing department than ever before as each of the cities take on the flavor of marketing regions. Hopefully doctrine, training and PSYOP/PAO work products are evolving so that the transition will be a smooth one.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No Business Like Shoe Business



Shoes and PSYOP seem to go hand in glove. I remember one evening in 1998 I was home alone and actually in charge of the TV and could watch whatever I wanted. As it turns out, I was fresh from my stint in Bosnia and “Wag The Dog” was one. Since I had never heard of it, and it featured Dustin Hoffman and Robert DiNiro I tuned it in. To my surprise it was all about PSYOP and centered around an “old shoe” theme. For those not familiar with the plot, a sitting US President needed to divert public attention from his personal sexual peccadilloes.

Fast forward to this week and shoes are in the air again because a disgruntled Iraqi reporter threw a pair of shoes at President Bush. Today’s post is not about Mr. Bush or his legendary prowess at Dodge Ball, nor is it about the significance of shoes and soles thereof in the Arab world – it’s about seizing the initiative and mass PSYOP. The picture above comes from the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/12/15/world/1215-SHOE_3.html) and is one of 8 ‘slides’ dealing with the post shoe protests.

While the general tenor about progress in Iraq has had an uptick, and optimism that President Elect Obama will bring an end to the unpopular war permeates the media, nevertheless, the rapid response and size of protests in supporter of the reporter rather than the President is worthy of note. Clearly anti-Americanism is still a popular cause, one which will seduce people into group activity. As a MI type, I wonder who was behind the organization of these events. Crowds do not materialize absent organization and these protest crowds are no exceptions.

The quick and dramatic reaction of our enemies should be noted, especially by those who advocate a hasty withdrawal from Iraq. The protests in support of the reporter seem to play out better visually than the actual shoe incident itself.
It is clear that much remains to be done if the USG goal is to win popular support. The inauguration of President Elect Obama may be a good focal point for an information offensive designed to show that the New Year will bring significant change to Iraq and that the Iraqi people will need to shoulder more and more of the responsibility for the security and political climate of their country. It will not be an easy sell. The incoming Administration would do well to consider what their desired end state ought to be and what behavior on the part of the Iraqi people would demonstrate the successful achievement of that result.

Meanwhile military PSYOP efforts should concentrate on local successes and build confidence in the new environment one neighborhood at a time. It is my contention that success in terms of popular support is a bottom up effort. The sum of a number of local successes is more significant than a top down view of popular satisfaction.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Military Lifts Mask Ban



In what may be an outbreak of common sense the Stars and Stripes (http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=59339) reported that the military has lifted its ban on interpreters wearing masks.

I had the great pleasure of hearing one of my long time PSYOP colleagues give a presentation on his tour in Iraq to a group of retired (some from as far back as WWII) CA Officers. He confirmed what some of the press is reporting and what I had suspected: many Iraqis support the US at their peril. Consequently even some senior officers (at least at that time c. 2005) came to work in civilian clothes and in civilian vehicles. It seems their neighbors didn’t even know their real jobs.
Pressure on congress by an Oregon based organization was cited as one of the reasons for the change.

Whatever the reason – the change is a good one and one that I personally applaud.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NATO and PAO: PSYOP Conundrums



The PSYOP Association (http://www.geocities.com/psyopassociation/membershipb.html) publishes a very useful e-mail publication called FrontPost. The publication reflects key events, trends and news in the PSYOP community worldwide and is a tremendous resource for PSYOP professionals.

Monday’s edition featured two articles dealing with PSYOP, PAO and IO in Afghanistan. The first talked about an organizational change implemented by an American BG and the second article: “NATO scraps press, psy ops merger in Afghanistan” (http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/ISL373905.htm) proclaimed its undoing.

Two aspects of the articles are worthy of discussion: NATO rules and the tacit assumption that PAO is always snow pure while PSYOP is always ‘propaganda’.
If there are any lessons that the USG should have learned by now is that going to war alone is not a good thing and that terrorists are far more adept at information engagement than we are.

NATO is a prime alliance for the USG. However, having served at the NATO Stabilization Force (SFOR) HQ in Sarajevo, I can tell you that it is a strange sociological beast. NATO organizations are cobble together based on nationalities and pay grades and often have the intrigue of a European Royal Court in the Middle Ages. Officers at the most senior levels within a NATO HQ wear two hats: NATO Officer and National Officer. Their Officer Efficiency Reports (OERs) are written by senior officers of their own nation and their generally unstated duty is to champion the priorities and causes of their nation – all within the bounds of the NATO organization.

While an officer may be in Command, he/she must do so within the NATO rules and rituals. It is clear to me that US doctrine needs to dovetail with NATO doctrine. This effort in turn should take two different paths. On the one hand US forces should insure that their operations are IAW NATO tactics, techniques and procedures and on the other, US personnel assigned to NATO should continually strive to modernize NATO TTP so that they will optimize operations in the 21st century regardless of AO. Furthermore, these TTP should encompass actions against terrorists and insurgents. Once TTP are adopted by NATO, member nations and those aspiring to membership will train and ultimately fight employing them.

Training as you fight takes on a new meaning – working in tandem with allies under common rules and TTP. This type of seamless integration would go a long way towards increasing the effects of allied operations and reduce the seeming advantage now enjoyed by our terrorist enemies.

The second aspect of the article implying that all PAO efforts are true and pure while PSYOP is propaganda is a bunch of crap! The quote in the article appears below:
“But that order went against policy agreed by the 26 nations within NATO which recognises there is an inherent clash of interests between its public affairs offices, whose job it is to issue press releases and answer media questions, and that of Information Operations and Psy Ops.
Information Operations advises on information designed to affect the will of the enemy, while Psy Ops includes so-called "black operations", or outright deception.”

PAO remains a powerful lobby and has succeeded at elevating itself above both PSYOP and IO. This exalted position exists in spite of the fact that PAO will spin their releases and messages in the way that they see fit. The fact of the matter is that everyone works for the CDR and the CDR needs to streamline his/her information engagement forces so as to get the biggest bang for the buck and to be able to respond quickly and forcefully to deny the information advantage to the enemy. Splitting the forces goes against both the principles of warfare and marketing.

The time has come for DoD to convene a small task force to address the notion of information engagement across the USG and to recommend to the new President how to gain and maintain the information upper hand in the war against terrorism.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pentagon Offers More Details on Military Support to Homeland Security

Today’s post expands on my posting of 25 November and is in part based on the 1 December Washington Post Article: Pentagon to Detail Troops to Bolster Domestic Security (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/30/AR2008113002217_pf.html)

This article provides more details from the general information that recently became available. In particular the article describes more specifics of the military forces to be theoretically engaged in homeland security support:
“The Pentagon's plan calls for three rapid-reaction forces to be ready for emergency response by September 2011. The first 4,700-person unit, built around an active-duty combat brigade based at Fort Stewart, Ga., was available as of Oct. 1, said Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of the U.S. Northern Command.

If funding continues, two additional teams will join nearly 80 smaller National Guard and reserve units made up of about 6,000 troops in supporting local and state officials nationwide. All would be trained to respond to a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive attack, or CBRNE event, as the military calls it.”

While I haven’t seen all the details – presumably there are more, two things jump out at me: 1. Concentration is on the warfighting skills that military people bring to the party and 2. PSYOP support for this force would ‘technically’ come from the Reserve Component since these forces are not part of Special Operations and therefore not supported by the 4th POG.

As to the first concern, I suspect that there has been scant attention paid to the nature of PAO and how PSYOP forces may be employed as emergency information providing responders. Also I suspect that there has been no guidance issued to develop contingency planning that includes working closely with local mass media (TV and Radio especially), nor has there been much attention to funding the training and travel that would be necessary for assigned military personnel to develop and maintain relationships with local media.

An approach to remedy this shortfall might be to employ contingency PSYOP and PAO personnel, either USAR, Guard or retired that have existing links and training. As an example the Red Cross provides excellent PAO training and each chapter has a strong tie to local media because the Red Cross is a very trustworthy and photogenic source.

The second issue is one of resources – PSYOP resources are under excessive OpTempo pressure. Given the spirit of nation building likely to be embraced by the incoming administration, DoD (especially perhaps AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM) will likely find themselves more engaged than they are today. This increase will also require PSYOP forces. While small, quick response support packages might come from either the 4th POG or SOCOM, in the main RC PSYOP is likely to bear this burden.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reserve PSYOP and Homeland Defense



Today’s Washington Post reported that SecDef Gates has asked the military to review their roles, responsibilities and capabilities to cope with Homeland Defense in addition to the current Warfighter missions. (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/24/AR2008112402456.html)

PSYOP is likely to be in the forefront of any military mission associated with Homeland Defense because it is the only practical means a military commander would have to inform the population of actions they need to take (e.g. store extra food and water), actions to avoid (e.g. curfew enforcement) and information (where to gather or obtain medical help, etc.)

PSYOP will undoubtedly be integrated into the Emergency Support Functions (ESF) supporting FEMA efforts that will be activated to deal with the situation. The various ESF are:

ESF#1 - Transportation

ESF#2 - Communications

ESF#3 - Public Works and Engineering

ESF#4 - Firefighting

ESF#5 - Emergency Management

ESF#6 - Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing and Human Services

ESF#7 - Logistics Management and Resource Support

ESF#8 - Public Health and Medical Services

ESF#9 - Search and Rescue

ESF #10 - Oil and Hazardous Materials Response

ESF#11 -Agriculture and Natural Resources

ESF#12 Energy

ESF#13 - Public Safety and Security

ESF#14 - Long Term Community Recovery

ESF#15 External Affairs

Homeland Defense missions may be actually fraught with more tension thancombat missions because the activity is taking place in the soldier’s homeland and perhaps even his or her neighborhood and because USAR PSYOP forces in are not trained in Homeland Defense or domestic activities, and have no on-going interaction with DHS or other domestic agencies that would likely be involved with domestic incidents.

As a minimum PSYOP units should consider developing contingency plans and on-call rosters. Homeland defense missions will likely occur without significant warning and require rapid response. Commanders would do well to integrate homeland contingency deployments with their home station training and to exercise teams with short, no-notice exercises. In addition selected personnel should be encouraged to become familiar with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and to complete a pre-determined minimum number of courses. This can be done on-line at http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/nims_training.shtm. Furthermore, RSTs and other resources should be employed to pay soldiers for their time and encourage participation.

The National Planning Scenarios (see http://www.dhs.gov/xprepresp/publications/gc_1189788256647.shtm) can form the basis of ODP and NCODP sessions and provide great CPX materials. Creative trainers can transplant and adjust the various NPS to suit their particular needs and geographic areas of emphasis.

September 11 taught us the lesson of being unprepared and the critical need for organizational interoperability, let’s hope we have learned it.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Masks: A PSYACT Themselves





Having discussed interpreters in the previous post, let me turn my attention to the issues of masks themselves. The quote below reminds me of a 1929 line from then Secretary of State Henry Stimson, “Gentlemen don’t read other people’s mail.”

"We are a professional Army and professional units don't conceal their identity by wearing masks," Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a spokesman for the U.S. military, wrote in an e-mail. He expressed appreciation for the service and sacrifice of the interpreters but said those dissatisfied with the new policy "can seek alternative employment."

Strikes me that LTC Stover may be a little short sighted here. We are not wearing bright red coats marching down a road. The nature of urban warfare and insurgency is that thinking ‘out of the box’ should be the norm, not the exception. Edicts from on high often have unforeseen and severetly detrimental effects at the local level.
While in fact there may not be an issue with the supply of interpreters today (which I’m not quite ready to concede), the global supply and demand for interpreters and individuals able to carry USG messages in their native language needs all the help it can get.

And as for masks being unprofessional – I don’t think my two friends here would agree.

Interpreters Banned From Wearing Masks – the PSYOP Impact



Sometimes I struggle to get out a weekly post. I pride myself on combining the topical with a bit of sarcasm and perhaps a sense of history. Today’s post was prompted by an article in the Washington Post: “Ban on masks upsets Iraqi interpreters” (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27758855/).

I have had the pleasure to work with interpreters in both military and commercial settings and I can attest to the fact that a good interpreter is worth more than his or her weight in gold. This quote from the article that hit me pretty hard this morning:
"Now that Obama wins, they are going to leave sooner or later," said Maximus, who works with a psychological operations unit. "We've fought for them all this time. When it's all done, nobody appreciates it." (emphasis added by me)

We, in the PSYOP community tend to think of ourselves as a above the rank and file in terms of our understanding of human culture. PSYOP is about influencing people’s behavior and influencing behavior means you understand it.

I recognize that contractors are ‘employees at will’ meaning that they can be fired at any time for any reason. In analyzing the quote it struck me that hiring of interpreters in a hostile zone requires some thought to the end game – what happens after US forces leave. While there is no legal duty to care for at will employees, there appears to be not only an ethical duty but a logical and powerful reason why working with interpreters should take more of a long range view. It strikes me that if someone is putting their life and the welfare of their families on the line they are demonstrating a level of commitment beyond a simple paycheck.

Are interpreters in a hostile zone paid sufficiently to compensate for this exposure? Should the quid pro quo for an interpreter the really just paycheck? Seems to me there is more at stake here.

Cultural understanding is a prerequisite to information engagement success. Native speakers willing to work with or for USG causes and assignments are hard to find. Furthermore, the USG lacks credibility in the overall Muslim world partially because of a perceived USG cowboy mentality and a lack of credible spokespeople. A void which could be filled as former interpreters stream into journalism, business and government leadership.

The time has come to take a longer range view. In my opinion, each AO (linguistically divided) needs to assess their interpreter work force. Interpreters who are of college age or interested in pursuing journalism, public affairs or even business administration should be marked for future training in the US and/or put on a track to be connected with international publications and business organizations who will have a need for their services after US forces withdraw.

Interpreters who are ‘seniors’ should be groomed and encouraged to become peer leaders and influencers in their communities. We need to adopt the best practices of organizations who truly value employees and where employees repay that concern with longevity and superior service. In the case of interpreters, this service would be rendered for the overall good and supporting USG messages and efforts for years to come.

In short the PSYOP community in particular should get into the mentoring and outplacement business for its interpreters. This implies that the USG indeed gets its act together on how to employ the multiple forces of national power in concert to achieve its goals.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

PSYOP and Obama’s New Approach to Afghanistan

First of all to my fellow veterans, thank you. Take a bit of time today, Veteran’s Day to reflect on how we all have helped make this country a bit more secure and a better place.

There can be no doubt that the man who beat Hillary Clinton (I think defeating McCain/Palin was a cakewalk in comparison) and who has decided to get a pound puppy instead of a pedigree for his children will bring a new perspective on information engagement across the board. President-elect Obama’s management of his own election and his exploitation of the Internet should leave no doubt that the potential to finally harness the power of information in pursuing USG goals is finally at hand.

While it is unreasonable to expect a wholesale change of personnel in DoD, the new administration will bring a new perspective and hopefully wrangle the USG internecine departmental battles over strategic communications, public affairs and information engagement in general into a cohesive and synergistic effort.

Having said that, it seems to me that the most likely place to start is Afghanistan. Today’s Washington Post featured an article: “Obama to Explore New Approach in Afghanistan War” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2008/11/10/AR2008111002897.html?wpisrc=newsletter&sid=ST2008111100889&s_pos=) buried in that article are two paragraphs I believe are worth a second look:

“At the White House, presidential adviser Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute is leading an interagency assessment of the Afghanistan war, scheduled to be finished this month, that administration officials said will focus on enhancing support for provincial and local governments and building the Afghan police. Lute plans to travel to Brussels to summarize the review for NATO.”

“At the Pentagon, Mullen is overseeing an Afghanistan and Pakistan transition strategy and force-structure review by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former Iraq commander sworn in last month as head of the U.S. Central Command, is drawing up plans for his wider new responsibilities, which include Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The first paragraph calls for “support for provincial and local governments and building the Afghan police”. These tasks will require increased PSYOP and CA efforts. Outside major cities in Afghanistan these efforts will be grass roots efforts building trust in these institutions, publicizing their successes and encouraging popular support. Likely this will require an increase in CA and PSYOP resources – given today’s optempo where will they come from? This type of effort should also harness resources from Department of Justice to strengthen not just the police force, but the judicial system behind it.

The second paragraph alludes to the fact the Gen Petraeus is no doubt considering how he will work with his new Commander-in-Chief. It’s my feeling that Gen Petraeus and President-elect Obama will likely have far more intellectually in common than President Bush does with the general. Consequently, this is an opportune time for Gen Petraeus to push for a more ambitious information engagement plan – one that is more inclusive of new resources to include support by cabinet offices beyond DoD and Department of State.

In any event, I believe that the new President will bring a level of intellectual rigor to the Whitehouse that it hasn’t seen in quite some time and that this will hopefully benefit the PSYOP Community.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Army Collaboration Software Aimed The Wrong Way


On November 3, Defense News reported “The U.S. Army is rolling out collaboration software that will allow soldiers around the world to instant-message and Web-conference with each other, capture and transmit screenshots, and edit documents together, service officials said.” (http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=3801669&c=AME&s=TOP). Given some of the background in the article, the picture in this post must be their mascot.

The software is being pushed out to computers in Kuwait as a prelude to getting the software to Forward Operating Bases in Iraq. Lt. Col. Mathew Riordan, product manager for the Army's program office for EIS Enterprise Information Systems was quoted as saying: "We have to focus on getting these technologies to the garrison side of the Army," Riordan said. "We really have to focus on that because you can be looking at a report and have a question. With this system, you can get an answer instantly."

What is wrong with this picture? A couple of things for sure. First of all, since when does the Army focus on getting answers to questions on reports? A fascination with administration often hampers the warfighter, which is something we clearly don’t want to do today.
Secondly, shouldn’t IT resources be directed where they can influence the outcome of battle and support USG messaging?

Collaboration can be a powerful weapon for information engagement. The ability to harness reachback resources especially in terms of images, language translation/validation and all around collaboration can significantly enhance the quality of a work product. This type of capability would also seem like a natural tool for the all too often lacking interaction between Public Affairs and PSYOP.

I suspect that the troops are already employing Yahoo or Blackberry’s between people already in the same units or who have working relationships, but necessarily across functions and organizations. Hopefully the Information Technology and logistics organizations within the chains of command for PSYOP and PAO are aware of this technology and are already assessing this technology and how it can serve their missions, if not, this is a good time to do so.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An UnHappy Customer Is Your Best Advertisement





An Unhappy Customer Is Our Best Advertisement

The Washington Times today reported that North Korea has declared it will attack South Korea if they don’t’ stop dropping tens of thousands of balloon originating leaflets. (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/oct/29/war-threatened-over-anti-north-leaflets/)
Photo Sources: Leaflet - Washington Times, DMZ Photo - the Author

According to the article, “The leaflets sent on Monday were printed in waterproof ink on plastic sheets and carried the names of South Korean civilians and prisoners of war thought to be held in the North as well as a family tree that the civic groups said maps Mr. Kim's relationships with several women who bore him children.”

The ‘leaflet wars’ have been going on for an incredibly long time with both sides seeking to use this older and perhaps classic media to influence the other. One would argue that, like poker, it would be best to remain expressionless in the face of the paper onslaught less the other side would gain an advantage through the satisfaction of provoking a reaction.The nK’s however, defy logic with the greatest of regularity, this instance being only one of many in a long line

Monday, October 27, 2008

PSYOP And The Raid On Syria



The official Syrian news agency, Sana, reported an attack by US Forces in the Abu Kamal area near the Syrian border with Iraq. (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7692153.stm or http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/27/AR2008102700511_2.html?hpid=topnews).

The Washington Post and BCC reports extensively quote the Syrian news agency including the facts that “The dead include a man, his four children and a married couple, the Syrian report said, without giving details of the children's ages.”

Both reports included the following: “But the Associated Press quoted an unnamed U.S. military official as saying the Special Forces raid had targeted a network of foreign fighters that regularly crosses the border."We are taking matters into our own hands," the official told the Associated Press, speaking on the condition of anonymity.”

Thus far (1146 Mountain Time, 27 October), no official USG comments have been made although the Washington Post article offered up:
“Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq called Syria "problematic," and blamed fighters based in Syria for one cross-border raid in May.
"We do know that there are operatives that live, we believe, certainly -- let me say, the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi intelligence forces feel that al-Qaeda operatives and others operate, live pretty openly on the Syrian side. And periodically we know that they try to come across," the commander, Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly, said.”

In a world where ‘secret’ raids are news moments after they begin and where unanswered claims of our enemies and adversaries are taken as ground truth, does it make sense to maintain official silence? In this particular case, it would seem that US forces executed the action. The truth behind the casualties has defaulted to the Syrian view and anti-war activists of all nationalities have seized on the action as yet another club footed act by the USG.

This is yet another case where a tactical action has turned into a strategic communication and where it appears that the information engagement value has not been given the proper consideration. Was the purpose of the action simply to attack the village of Sukkiraya or did the action have a broader purpose?

Perhaps there were some messages that ought to have been transmitted:
• “Sure, we’re in the middle of a Presidential election, but don’t think for a moment that we will hesitate to attack terrorists no matter where they may hide.”
• “If sovereign governments do not act to address terrorist activities, we will.”
• “The government of Iraq has powerful friends who will help it deal with its enemies”

No matter what, the information engagement facets of the kinetic attack should have been handled differently. Failure to address the information engagement aspects of similar moves will do more harm to the overall war on terrorism than the tactical victories.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

PSYOP And The Next Phase In Iraq



(Photo Courtesy of NATO, General Babakir Baderkhan Zibari, Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Joint Forces and Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, Commander JFC Naples met during the Admiral's visit to NATO Training Mission-Iraq, Jan. 24.)

Readers are forewarned that today’s posting is a bit futuristic, but hey, it’s almost Election Day and we all should be used to it by now. The October 16th headline screamed “Iraqis Tout Business Opportunities to U.S. Firms” (http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=3775513) and the story concerned the Iraqi government’s promotion of the unlimited investment opportunities in Iraq. Of course the speakers were from the Ministry of Defense and there was the appropriate caveat that safety was not guaranteed.

Speakers included Gen. Babakir Baderkhan Zibari, chief of staff for the Iraqi Joint Forces , Maj. Gen. Hussein Ali Kamal Ahmedfahmi, deputy minister of the Ministry of Interior, and Sameer Abdulwahhab Razooqi, director of public affairs for the Ministry of Defense. The premise of the pitch was that foreign companies ought to do business with the Iraqi government, especially the Ministry of Defense. There can be no dispute that the country’s infrastructure is bad shape and that it cannot be repaired without external resources.

Today’s posting is actually about what happens when the security posture is considered stable and outside investment beyond the defense sector beings to flower in Iraq. What would be a proper role for PSYOP and what new issues and concerns will surface?

First of all, PSYOP will continue to be a voice of the USG until the troops leave. They may not be the only voice as PAO will still be the major information conduit to the media. Time will tell if the new administration gears up Public Diplomacy, nevertheless, PSYOP troops and their products will be functioning.

As the security environment shifts from lethal to benign, USG messages and the media used to transmit them will evolve. Strategic Communications and Public Diplomacy ought to be employed in Western Europe and Asia to induce investment in Iraq and risk taking opportunistic firms will trickle in. Then what?

Increasingly Coalition forces, especially Tactical PSYOP Teams will hear something like: “Soldier, can you and your boys help me out here? I need to get this truck load of my product from here to there and I’m really concerned about security.” Kind of training has been provided to help PSYOP soldiers and others deal with requests from commercial companies or even from NGO? Would the USG be subject to liability if one vendor’s request was honored, but another was not? What would happen if the Coke truck got through, but the Pepsi truck did not? Have officers and NCOs been trained on the ethics of conflicts of interest within the commercial context?

Given today’s optempo, the answer is that none of these issues have been addressed in training. The message of today’s post is that we in the PSYOP community need to address these issues now, at least in the academic sense. Curricula need to be developed that address the conflicts of interests and other ethical dilemmas that are likely to pop up during the more mature phases of nation building.

Friday, October 17, 2008

PSYOP And The Next Phase In Afghanistan




From the latest news it would appear that the conflict in Afghanistan is moving into a new and more deadly phase.
On October 16, 2008 SecDef remarked ““Afghanistan is the test, on the grandest scale, of what we are trying to achieve when it comes to integrating the military and the civilian, the public and private, the national and international,” at the U.S. Institute of Peace’s first Dean Acheson lecture. (more details at: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=51524)


The DoD story notes that: “Gates called Afghanistan “the laboratory” for U.S. efforts to apply and fully integrate the full range of its national power and international cooperation to protect its security and vital interests.


SecDef Gates described the scope of the effort there, as 42 nations, hundreds of nongovernmental organizations, universities, development banks, the United Nations, the European Union and NATO all working together to help Afghanistan rise above the challenges it faces. These range from crushing poverty to a bumper opium crop to a ruthless and resilient insurgency and al-Qaida and other violent extremists.


“Afghanistan has tested America ’s capacity – and the capacity of our allies and partners – to adapt institutions, policies and approaches that in many cases were formed in a different era for a different set of challenges,” Gates said.”


Gates concluded that there were two key ingredients needed for success in Afghanistan:
“To be successful, the entirety of the NATO alliance, the European Union, NGOs and other groups – the full panoply of military and civilian elements – must better integrate and coordinate with one another and also with the Afghan government,” he said. “These efforts today, however well-intentioned and even heroic, add up to less than the sum of the parts.”
“A big factor in Afghanistan ’s success rests in the effort to rapidly train, equip and advise its army and police force”, Gates said. He noted that until recently, few Western governments and militaries had this capability outside their Special Forces.


After my personal experience of working alongside my NATO colleagues in Sarajevo, and switching to ‘civilian mode’ when walking the halls of the Office of the High Representative (OHR), I can attest to the fact that once again the SecDef has hit the nail on the head. The synergy of the Coalition, NGOs and other organizations is the weapon needed to defeat extremism. The application of resources to address the social, economic and infrastructure needs of the country is the mode of attack for nation building.

However, doing the work is only part of the solution. The Afghani people must understand that the Coalition is working together for their common good. This is where PSYOP comes in. working in tandem with PAO, and Strategic Communications, PSYOP must be employed to make certain that the people know the source of their new resources.

Herein lies the challenge, under the current stove pipe organization each element within the USG answers to its own master as to the corresponding components from other nations and other organizations. There is a critical need to form as SecDef calls it, “a laboratory” to orchestrate the information engagement in an unprecedented way and in a commercial flavored manner. This organization would likely report to Department of State, but would be a hybrid of US, other nations and NGOs, etc. The leadership would be a respected civilian, ideally one with credible backgrounds in the military and commercial sectors and with the diplomatic skills required to ‘herd the cats’.

As example, there was a September Medical Assistance Mission in Arghandab district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. According to one of the officers on that mission: “We were expecting roughly 400 people to come through, but approximately 850 showed up, 500 of which were kids,” the officer said. “We had to go back to the firebase to get more supplies to hand out to meet the overwhelming demand. Everyone that came in walked away with something that they needed. I’m just glad we could do something to make their lives a little better.” (More details at: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=51528).

It’s great to read about such a heartwarming story on the official DoD website, but how would Afghanis down the road or across the street know this happened? How would the best practices and lessons learned from this mission and the publicity surrounding it be spider webbed to other similar missions in Afghanistan or even Iraq? These are the questions that need to be answered in the next phase of this conflict.



Monday, October 13, 2008

One Ring To Rule Them All

On October 12th the Washington Post published a story “U.S. Military Plans Polls and Focus Groups in Iraq”. The story described “The proposed polling contract, which has yet to be awarded, would centralize activities currently conducted by four different commands within Multi-National Force-Iraq and the Psychological Operations and Information Operations task forces.”
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2008/10/11/AR2008101101967.html)

ThePost pegged the new strategic communications initiative as a $15 million effort to supplement the military’s existing strategic communications budget of $100 million year. And “would centralize activities currently conducted by four different commands within Multi-National Force-Iraq and the Psychological Operations and Information Operations task forces.”

As a civilian market research professional and the former DCO of the Combined Joint Information Campaign in Bosnia I have some opinions about this contract and the story – some positive, some not so positive.

First of all the notion that the identity of the ultimate user of the data, i.e. the U.S. government can be kept secret is preposterous. In the day of the Internet to quote the title of a book by Richard Hunter of Gartner Group, we live in a “World Without Secrets”. It is only a matter of time before the nature of the poll or focus group becomes public. Given the heat the military took for actually paying a writer to write positive stories from the LA Times and others, some enterprising journalist will have a source that uncovers one such poll or focus group and will blow it up in hopes of winning a Pulitzer Prize.

Secondly, as correctly pointed out by SecDef Gates on more than one occasion, the State Department should be the lead dog in this kind of effort, not the military. Public Diplomacy and helping other nations rebuild their infrastructure is the responsibility of the Department of State. Their diplomats along with seconded representatives of other Cabinet Level Departments should be driving the nation building, not the Department of Defense.

Third, polling and focus groups produce intelligence – they don’t change opinions, nor do they perform concrete functions. Who will use this information and what will they do with it? Doesn’t make more sense to beef up the as recommended by SecDef Gates?

Fourth, any contractor selected for this project – assuming it moves along will need a civilian oriented buffer organization that can interface with the native Iraqi sources, analyze the collected information and make appropriate recommendations. Military personnel are simply not trained nor experienced in market analysis and perhaps most importantly, they don’t think like civilians.

Fifth – Congress is Clueless If the quote attributed to Senator James Webb (D-VA) that "At a time when this country is facing such a grave economic crisis . . . it makes little sense for the Department of Defense to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars to propagandize the Iraqi people," is true, it is clear that Senator Webb hasn’t the faintest idea as to the importance of strategic communications and likely has no clue as to why effective strategic communications and information engagement are needed to stab at the heart of what fuels the success of terrorists and insurgents.

While there is always more to government contracts than printed in any publication, this particular story raises some red flags that need attention.

Monday, October 6, 2008

New Army FM on Stability Operations Short on PSYOP Content




The Army released its new FM 3-07 Stability Operations, the 200 + page document positions Stability Operations as a new cornerstone of Army operational doctrine. (Available at: http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-07.pdf)

Today’s release of the new manual is good news and bad news. Good news because it codifies some of the strategy and tactics that made the surge a success in Iraq and more importantly the rationale behind them. It’s also a bit of bad news because it took so long to recognize “New Terms” such as “whole of government approach”, “rule of law” and “comprehensive approach.


The manual incorporates the new jargon dejure of information engagement as the current terminology for the former information operation even though, according to the manual’s glossary, the components remain the same: “The integrated employment of public affairs to inform U.S. and friendly audiences; psychological operations, combat camera, U.S. Government strategic communication and defense support to public diplomacy, and other means necessary to influence foreign audiences; and, leader and Soldier engagements to support both efforts. (FM 3-0)”


The manual recognizes that information engagement is intertwined with the success of stability operations in paragraph 3-73 of the manual: “Information engagement tasks are deliberately integrated with activities in each stability sector and primary stability task to complement and reinforce the success of operations. This integration is vital to success; information engagement tasks must be carefully sequenced with other tasks and supported with thorough risk assessments.”

I have always marveled at the Army’s ability to use more words than necessary to explain something. The manual concedes that information engagement is critical to the success of stability operations as shown in its Figure 1. However, astoundingly enough there is only one paragraph on PSYOP in the entire document, 2-73:
“Psychological operations exert significant influence on foreign target audiences and are often the primary capability for affecting behaviors among these audiences. During stability operations, psychological operations forces also advise the commander and staff on the psychological effects of their operations, provide public information to the target audience to support humanitarian assistance, and assess adversary propaganda. Effective psychological operations can support communications with the local populace, reduce civil interference with military operations, support efforts to establish and maintain rule of law, and influence the host-nation attitude toward external actors. The approved objectives and themes of psychological operations are integrated through the operations process to ensure forces effectively and efficiently apply limited resources.”

The next two paragraphs recognize the “spotlight of international news media,
and under the umbrella of international law” and the likely urban nature of many stability operations.

Apparently it is now up to the PSYOP community to absorb the enormity of the stability operations challenge and to craft its own doctrine to deal with this new challenge. Interestingly enough stability operations are going to be joint by nature, yet there is neither published Joint doctrine, nor service stability operations doctrine from the other services.

It would seem that now would be the right time for a Joint PSYOP Doctrinal project, perhaps within the auspices of USSOCOM’s J-39, to act as the catalyst for the development of Joint, Navy, Marine and Air Force doctrine for stability operations. This group should be augmented by personnel from other departments and agencies involved in stability operations. Well thought interagency doctrine is a vital component of stability operations so that broad representation from other agencies is necessary to harness all aspects of the USG’s soft power. Consequently, the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Health & Human Services, Justice, State and Treasury ought to be included.

The availability of more comprehensive guidance will go a long way to eliminate many of the wrinkles in today’s stability operations and that are likely to surface in the next ones.




Sunday, September 28, 2008

PSYOP of TV Commercials


Most people don’t regard TV as a real educational medium. Of course there is Sesame Street, Electric Company, Zoom and the Discovery Channel mabe are exceptions. But, by and large, TV is entertainment pure and simple.

PSYOP professionals, however, can learn quite a bit by watching television as I did this past week in London. We stayed in a luxury hotel that had TV from: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, China and Japan not to mention Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

I spent a fair bit of time flipping through any station that had Arabic commercials. Each station had its own unique flair and appeal. I suspect if I were a bit more analytical I would have tracked the nature of the goods, the models, the music, etc.

Some commercials were quite gaudy. Others were for top of the line fashion jewelry, a common denominator about the cars – mileage was not an issue.

These commercials were all geared for general audiences. If a new advertiser decided to avail themselves of the station they would need to focus their images and messages in the same general ways as the others to appeal to the target audience.

Today’s environment has made it clear that while the USG may have strict lines separating public diplomacy, strategic communications and PSYOP – the world does not. It is more than very likely that tomorrow’s PSYOPers will have to be part entertainer, part news journalist and media savvy across the spectrum of new media from international or regional TV to highly micro-focused web/pod costs and the ubiquitous mobile phone.

There is always a danger when you think you know more about a language that is not your own – a good example is probably http://www.alarabiya.net/views/2008/09/28/57394.html. I think the author was trying to invoke the famous fairy tail where the protagonist felt the sky was falling – something lost in the translation here serves as a really good example.

Next time you can, watch TV in a foreign language, especially the commercials. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.

Monday, September 15, 2008

YouTube Purge – Like Whack A Mole, But Less Fun

The San Jose Mercury News ran an Associated Press story “YouTube to purge terrorist and other videos inciting violence” (http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_10451247). The article essentially explained that Google will “rely on users to report objectionable videos”.

The use of video via the Internet is an explosive and viral phenomenon. It is an incredibly cost effective graphic media requiring little or not capital equipment. Furthermore given the rate of video additions to YouTube (13 hours every couple of minutes according to the article or about 400 hours of videos every clock hour) it would be impossible to find, much less eliminate the objectionable videos.

The Internet will remain a key means for Al Qaeda and others to recruit and share information. Over time, I believe that mobile phones will supplant PC and laptop access as the main vehicle for sharing information and recruitment. Mobile phones have a great rate of acceptance in developing countries and are far more available and less visible than Internet access via cafes, etc.

The key challenge for PSYOP today is to ‘skate to the puck’ a sports metaphor (which I usually avoid) meaning to go to where the target will be, not where it is now. We in the PSYOP community need to be on top of the latest techniques of mobile phone habits and be prepared to pounce on this media based on its importance in target analysis.

This will require a level of technical competence and international perspective heretofore unparalleled in PSYOP efforts and will likely require the concerted efforts of a younger generation to bring to fruition.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fusion Cells – Is PSYOP ready?

The September 6 Washington Post featured an article “U.S. Teams Weaken Insurgency In Iraq” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/05/AR2008090503933.html?sub=AR). The article addressed the successes gained through use of specialized teams composed of intelligence and Special Forces personnel. According to the article: “U.S. intelligence and defense officials credit the operation and its unusual tactics -- involving small, hybrid teams of Special Forces and intelligence officers -- with the capture of hundreds of suspected terrorists and their supporters in recent months.”

The article concedes that not much is known about Fusion teams, and goes on to describe their HQ: “The headquarters bustles like the New York Stock Exchange, with long-haired computer experts working alongside wizened intelligence agents and crisply clad military officers, say officials who have worked there or visited.”

Given that PSYOP will target many of the same individuals and groups, perhaps it makes sense to field special PSYOP fusion teams or to incorporate PSYOP and IO efforts within the existing teams?

Since I have no experience or knowledge concerning these teams, I felt it useful to consider the concept for PSYOP. It’s implied that the teams have a significant, multi-agency support and Reachback capability. It is also implied that the targets are destined to be destroyed or otherwise eliminated as a part of an overall plan against targeted organizations.

A PSYOP fusion team would have similar attributes. It should have specialized and timely if not real time intelligence as well as specialized media intelligence that I’ve described in previous postings. It should also have the latest in IO capabilities such as those for CNA and mobile phone PSYOP. The team should also include native speakers who can be employed in real time and that are deployable should it be necessary to execute PSYOP from forward locations.

The teams would be joint teams in order to capitalize on the unique strengths of each service PSYOP component. For the sake of unity of command it makes logical sense for these teams to be under the SOCOM chain, but to include RC PSYOP as needed even though they fall outside this chain of command.

A caveat to the employment of PSYOP fusion teams is that PSYOP in general are continuous operations over a period of time. Furthermore their intent is to influence behaviors, a goal not often realized in a short time frame. Unlike operations against individuals, PSYOP are generally executed towards a group audience with a much less well defined end goal then that of the teams described here.

Nevertheless, the fusion concept for PSYOP is worth considering.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Area Information Mapping: PSYOP IPB


The Intelligence Corps has long touted Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) as a cornerstone of military success. The time has come for PSYOP, IO and PA to emphasize Area Information Mapping (AIM) with the same degree of zeal. AIM would be a compilation of doctrine and best practices used to determine how information flows through an AO.

A key ingredient in AIM would be traditional media mapping where the range and popularity of radio, TV and print media are plotted along with any population demographics. A second set of overlays to the AO would cover word of mouth and highlight key physical locations where large amounts of people are exposed to information. When combined these two sets of graphic information would yield a comprehensive picture of the influence battlefield.

Ideally these graphics could be color coded by key demographics – religion, political affiliation – along with some sort of ranking of importance and credibility. This kind of three dimensional video would allow PSYOP and other IO planners to readily grasp how to harness credible and reinforcing media to achieve the most favorable impact.

Novel graphic representations can be a powerful tool, especially in combined and joint environments and in coalitions. The diagram accompanying today’s post can be found at: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic30774.files/2-2_Florida.pdf

It would be most appropriate for this doctrine to flow top down from Joint Doctrine as all service PSYOP organizations need this same information. Furthermore, it would make logical sense for the SOCOM based research resources to compile these graphics for current AOs and working in conjunction with service PSYOP arms and the intelligence community to develop similar packages for areas ‘likely’ to have PSYOP conducted.

It would also be appropriate to employ these AIM packages in humanitarian efforts since getting information to the proper sources in a credible fashion is critical to the success of both PSYOP and humanitarian efforts.

A parallel effort should be employed to research advanced search engines that present patterns graphically – but that will be the topic of another post.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rural PSYOP - Harder Than Urban PSYOP


As a City Boy I’ve always been fascinated with all things rural – especially Cowboys. This summer has been an immersion experience in rural living. While not exactly living on a farm, any town with about 4 cows per person certainly qualifies as rural.
Here’s a couple of things I’ve learned:

Credibility comes from closeness – media from the immediate (and I really mean IMMEDIATE) area is the only credible source. Local media concentrate on local news and opinion. They reflect what is important to the area. For example, a weekly county newspaper will put the obituaries on page 2 because it’s important. City people read the obits to make sure they’re not there.

Word of mouth is still the best means of communication – the grapevine in a small town puts the CIA to shame. Most people know more about their neighbors and former neighbors than NSA could find out in a hundred years.

Not everyone is on the Internet – while e-mail may be a mainstay of life for many people, it’s not necessarily a key source for everyone.

Cell Phones are more common than six guns. Every self respecting cowboy has a cell phone! Not that they’re going to IM while ropin’ doggies, but they are ubiquitous. Strangely enough my personal observation is that they’re used mostly as phones.

Billboards – While certain states regard billboards as eyesores, communities that have an Interstate linking them to larger cities have some prominent ones. There are even state of the art electronic billboards with flashing messages to catch the eye of locals and travelers alike.
Community Gathering Spots – there might not be places where groups gather regularly, but there are major events during the year that draw crowds, some of which encourage participation by groups seeking to get their message out.

Agriculture and Schools are centers of gravity. Family schedules revolve around the land and the school year. One is adjusted to accommodate the other.

Sense of Urgency – a sense of urgency is something that doesn’t seem to exist unless it relates to acting to avoid damage to crops or livestock.

Do It Yourself – there is a strong sense of self-reliance. Most people would rather fix stuff themselves then rely on others. This often translates to a shortage of people for hire in ultra rural areas.

Your word is your bond – sooner or later if you don’t stick to your promises, your reputation will precede you and it won’t be pleasant.

Y’all enjoy the summer, Labor Day is around the corner!

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words


I have often said that imagery is more powerful than words. The accompanying picture says quite a bit. It readily identifies an adversary with a vilified past. While the technique of visual morphing isn’t exactly new it does take quite a bit of creativity to come up with the idea and then harness the appropriate technology.

When I was in Bosnia (circa 1997 – 1998) the Republika Serbska had a great TV commercial. First they showed NATO troops then focusing on the Kevlar helmet, morphed the NATO helmet and the troops into Nazi storm troopers. At the time I thought that was a nice piece of work and I admired what I felt was a streamlined approval chain.

While morphing is a great visual, the object of the vilification (in this case Stalin) typically brings up such emotions and memories that this kind of work needs to be dealt with very carefully. This is especially true in a coalition environment where partners may have their own perspective on the campaign and its reflection on a troubled past.

This particular picture also stands for the proposition that the media playing field is leveling. Viral marketing with unclear sourcing and no fact checking or validation is now with the capabilities of almost any individual and certainly almost any group.

This also means that any single image or writing can become an overnight Internet darling with hundreds of thousands of downloads – yet the ability to respond quickly with powerful images will often establish the information battle positions much as the first product out in a market place may dominate market share simply because its first.

Bottom line: PSYOPers need to be at least as conversant with technology as our adversaries and we need to have a streamlined approval chain, yet one that can see beyond the image at hand.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

PSYOP in Georgia


Fox news has reported that President Bush has ordered the military to spearhead the humanitarian aid missions to Georgia. (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,402982,00.html).

Given the lack of overt USG action on the world stage up to this point and the suffering of the Georgian population it is incumbent on the USG to accompany aid with some strong PSYOP. Large military aircraft are indeed a PSYACT and the sight of a modern day “Berlin Airlift” is likely to be viewed positively, but there has to be more. The USG must orchestrate a multi-pronged information offensive designed to restore the confidence in the US by the Georgian people and the rest of world.

Not only should the aid packages have prominent display of appropriate messages, but media coverage, in particular TV should be encouraged. Viral marketing employing UTube should be aggressively employed. Consideration should be giving to encouraging and authorizing as individuals taking part in the operation to document their personal humanitarian efforts. Putting a face on those being helped is a positive idea.

Logistical and PA support should be provided to the appropriate NGOs. It might also be a good idea to send in a limited number of Civil Affairs teams to do damage assessment and see how the infrastructure of the region has been impacted.

In short the USG needs to get in front of the traditional and new media ASAP. This particular crisis also underscores the need to have properly vetted and prepared contingency PSYOP forces (perhaps consisting of retired and/or civilian personnel) ready to be employed as surge personnel when needed.

Image Courtesy of the RAF (because it was easier to find an appropriate shot from them based on a Google Image Search)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

Blog Entry, 11 Aug 08, Georgia On My Mind
All of us have been watching the unfolding situation in Georgia. For some of us, we are reminded of untold exercises involving the Fulda Gap – or as I used to say “19 Russian Divisions - no waiting”. Russian forces have taken direct and violent action on the battlefield overwhelming their adversary.

They have also employed new weapons – Computer Network Attack (CNA). The UK based Telegraph reported that Russia is also conducting a “Cyber War” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/georgia/2539157/Georgia-Russia-conducting-cyber-war.html) where the target is official government websites.

I’d argue that it’s not really “Cyber War”, but a reasoned PSYACT designed more to show dominance rather than to orchestrate harm. Control of a government or individual’s ability to communicate is designed to invoke a feeling of helplessness on the part of the victim and to erode morale and will.

Attacking a government’s websites making them unavailable or redirecting the accessor to another website clearly under the control of the attacker would appear to be a good way to reduce confidence in the government. It would also seem to be a way to make the citizenry feel that their government is powerless.

The defender would have to turn to other means to counter this impression. This best alternative given the demographics would be TV. Government TV broadcasts could fill the void left by any Internet deficit, and employ visuals designed to bolster the confidence of the citizenry and unite them against the attacker.

Broadcasts of action on the front line could also be used as a means to induce other nations to come to the rescue of the victim by putting political pressure on the attacker, or perhaps even offering some military counter balance.

Interestingly enough this type of action was considered in the recently released National Defense Strategy as stated on page 4 of the strategic environment section: “All of these actions suggest a Russia exploring renewed influence, and seeking a greater international role.”

Given all the above, how confident are we that the USG could mount an effective response in this or a similar situation that would harness conventional military power, Computer Network Operations, PSYOP, PA, Department of State and other instruments of national power?

This most recent action should be a real wake up call. An efficient enemy such as the one posed by a totalitarian regime with strong and unchallenged leadership is a formidable foe. Especially since the USG lacks:

A cohesive and well thought out National Information Strategy.
A single designated Senior Government Leader in the Executive Branch to form and implement such a strategy across the USG.
Neither a strategy nor designated responsible individuals within the USG to mobilize or at least work with US civilian resources to assist in an information offensive.

It would seem that now is the time to finally put into place recommendations from the Defense Science Board’s 2007 Task Force on Strategic Communications, ideas from the IO Roadmap of 2003 and other moves designed to prepare the USG to more effectively deal with today’s environment and avoid disaster in tomorrow’s.

It also appears that DoD should increase its emphasis on NATO Doctrine to help insure smoother joint operations with NATO allies and would be NATO members should these be necessary in the future.

Friday, August 1, 2008

2008 National Defense Strategy (NDS) Implications For PSYOP


It’s pretty unusual for a short timer to take decisive action that will impact his successors for years to come, but that is exactly what the SecDef did with the most recent National Defense Strategy released 31 July (http://www.defenselink.mil/news/2008%20National%20Defense%20Strategy.pdf) .

While PSYOP is not mentioned in the document, reading between the lines reveals some profound implications for PSYOP. Let’s start with the Strategic Environment.

“For the foreseeable future, this environment will be defined by a global struggle against a violent extremist ideology that seeks to overturn the international state system. Beyond this transnational struggle, we face other threats, including a variety of irregular challenges, the quest by rogue states for nuclear weapons, and the rising military power of other states. These are long-term challenges. Success in dealing with them will require the orchestration of national and international power over years or decades to come.” (NDS; p 1, emphasis added by the author).

Struggles against ideology are won through influence; “irregular challenges” implies something besides force on force actions and conjures up visions of asymmetrical challenges especially those fostered by the global reach and instantaneous response of the Internet. Rogue states connote large, powerful nations with WMD, conventional and asymmetric capabilities. The notion “rogue” also implies a nation willing to take extraordinary risks and one that doesn’t ‘play by the rules’.

The document goes on to emphasis the need to monitor global trends in demographics, economics, energy and the critical need to use “soft power to shape the behavior of individual states and the international system” (p6) Likely challenges will be PSYOP in urban environments and a pressing need to conduct influence operations in denied areas as well.

DoD has five key objectives:
1. Defend The Homeland
2. Win The Long War
3. Promote Security
4. Deter Conflict
5. Win Our Nation’s Wars

The Long war is “a war of ideas, and an assistance effort that will require patience and innovation” (p8). Perhaps the most telling paragraph is found on page 17:

“We also need capabilities to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Strategic communications within the Department and across government is a good example.
Although the United States invented modern public relations, we are unable to communicate to the world effectively who we are and what we stand for as a society and culture, about freedom and democracy, and about our goals and aspirations. This capability is and will be crucial not only for the Long War, but also for the consistency of our message on crucial security issues to our allies, adversaries, and the world.” (Emphasis added)

No mention is made of the “how” this will be accomplished or the “who” will accomplish this vital task. One thing is certain and that is PSYOP is already a force in this effort. However, the big picture is anything but clear. The notion of Strategic Communication has changed from exclusively a top down, generally large scale, trans-regional effort to leveraging local events instantly on the Internet.

SecDef has made some bold declarations and in my view – “gets it”.

But, what about the implementation of the strategy? How will PSYOP interact with PA within an IO context to accomplish USG goals? Will the stove pipes of IO functions such as EW and Military Deception embrace the need for synergistic cooperation? Can the vision of employing soft power evolve to a true core competency of DoD?

These are the kind of tough questions for PSYOP brought out from the National Defense Strategy. Reader comments are invited.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tipping Point PSYOP or Does It Pay To Throw Good Money After Bad?



I arrived in Sarajevo in July 1997 to serve as the DCO of the NATO Combined Joint Information Campaign Task Force (CJICTF). By that time Radovan Karadic was already a wanted man. Rumors had him moving frequently at night in a caravan of cars. During the time I was in Bosnia there were several ‘sightings’ and much speculation about where he was and if he would ever get caught.

“Ever” came this week with a raid in Belgrade. Mr. Karadic was found to be leading a new life with a new physical and mental persona. The fact that he eluded his pursuers for so long is likely to be a testimonial to his personal intellect and discipline and to some level of acquiescence by the Serbian government.

What caused the tipping point? Was it PSYOP? Not in this case. I’ve sometimes split target audiences (TA) into Green, Yellow and Red. Green are people that already support your point view, Red are those who will never come around to your perspective and Yellow are the folks in the middle.

Mr. Karadic and his supporters over the last decade likely fall into the Red Group. A TA that has little regard for the Coalition point of view. Frankly I didn’t think that PSYOP efforts to erode his support would be successful. My feeling was that his supporters whether loyalists from the glory days in Pale or his new neighbors in Belgrade would not be persuaded to withdraw their support and turn him in.

If my hypothesis is correct, then why all of a sudden is there a hot tip that leads to an arrest? As Mr. Clinton might have said, “It’s the economy stupid!” The fact is that today’s Serbian government is interested in EU membership (see http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/23/world/europe/23serbia.html?ref=europe) and they needed to corral Mr. Karadic and soon his #1 henchman, General Ratko Mladic as evidence of their worthiness to join the EU.

The moral of the story: nations must use all their instruments synergistically if they are to achieve the goals they set for themselves. In this case the Serbian government decided that the nation’s economic future was more important than continuing to shield one of their ‘heroes’.

Economics is a powerful weapon. Success of micro-financing efforts in Iraq have largely gone unnoticed and unreported, hopefully these successes and more importantly the people who have improved their lives are being aggressively promoted in the theater and internationally.

If NATO has Brand Management – Shouldn’t We?



NATO has hired Michael Stopford, a former Coca-Cola Company brand executive to shepherd its brand. According to the NY Times on 16 July (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/16/world/europe/16nato.html?scp=1&sq=NATO%20Hires&st=cse), the alliance feels it needs to be more effective at communicating to the citizen taxpayers who ultimately pay for it.

NATO is concerned about how their image is perceived across the alliance. The article quotes Jean-Fran├žois Bureau, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy as saying “We have the green light to think about branding policy for NATO.”

A few of my more recent posts have drawn some very thought provoking comments concerning the military and its interaction with the media. I’ve often employed the metaphor of commercial enterprises and their PR and marketing departments and compared them respectively to the PAO and PSYOP. While I haven’t mentioned brand management too often, it’s a core part of successful organizations.

When I first joined Symantec in the fall of 2000 my boss was a former IBM Executive whose specialty was brand management. He was literally the right arm of Symantec CEO John Thompson and was able to exert significant influence on company operations in order to maintain the sanctity and value of the brand.

Translating that to the US Government – is the Department of State (DOS) the brand manager? Does DOD need its own brand management or is the notion of governmental brand management nonsense?

My perspective is that brand is synonymous with the reputation and imputed value of the organization. NATO has recognized the need to have a positive image and has taken a couple of baby steps such as the NATO Channel (http://www.natochannel.tv/default.aspx?aid=2495&lid=343&bhcp=1) as a means of transmitting its messages about Afghanistan directly without the use of intermediary media. While it’s not clear how effective this effort has been, it gives credence to the concept of a military organization defending its ‘brand’ and in this case underscores the role of the Internet.

It remains to be seen how NATO doctrine will be adjusted to reflect an organization which is neither PAO nor PSYOP yet touches both worlds. The brand management effort is unabashedly one designed to influence the domestic audiences of NATO members, something the US military is prohibited from doing.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Military Perception Management: Not As Easy As It Looks


For those of you who read the blog regularly, my apologies for not posting in a while. Frankly I’ve been on vacation in Yellowstone and Idaho and didn’t even check e-mail for a week! I’ve found that unplugging is a productive mental health technique.


Like many of you I’m engaged in a number of on-line groups. One of my groups raised the issue of the military’s need to include ‘media manipulation’ as part of its planning. The author went on to say that the military needed to be more aggressive in developing and maintaining a positive image in the media.
Since this touched upon a number of points I’ve made in previous posts, I’ve adapted my response here.

Commercial organizations recognize the importance of perception management by funding PR, marketing and government relations. PR is the company's voice to the media, marketing provides a range of services designed to influence decision makers and government relations is a conduit of information from the company to the government. Stated differently, PR influences the media and marketing influences the customer and customer organizations.

All of these entities are driven by the goals set by management and approved by the board of directors.
Presumably there is a top level company strategy that clearly states revenue and profit goals and is focused on increasing the value of the company's worth (its shares of stock).The military does not have the same coherence.

While there is a National Strategy for Public Diplomacy, there is no comparable overarching strategy for perception of cabinet departments (beyond Dept of State) or for the government as a whole.Furthermore, there are legal bounds that the military cannot cross - PSYOP cannot be conducted domestically for example.


Another key difference is that the media is positioned to be a counter balance to the military because doing so helps them achieve their corporate goals and gives their platform more credence to their audiences who are pre-conditioned for anti military views.
When you take all of this into consideration, the DoD needs to develop a 'corporate' strategy that can be approved by the POTUS and that serves to guide PAO and other actions.

The point about access is a good one and the embedding strategy for reporters is one that seems to have been a good one in granting access that leads to positive results.
Recognize that like many multi-national organizations, DoD is made up of a large number of often conflicting parts (e.g. services) that have their own influence to peddle as witnesses by the recent stories concerning the Air Force's alleged used of recruiting commercials for "Cyber Warriors" as a means, not to increase recruits, but to enhance their competitive position with respect to budget dollars.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Obama The PSYOP President?



Senator Obama has proven himself to be an astute student of Information Operations, PSYOP in particular. I saw a June 23 article in the Washington Post, Obama Reintroduces Himself to Voters and there have been other articles in other media all pointing to the Senator’s command of IO. There is also a Washington Post Blog dealing with the ad campaign at: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/thefix/2008/06/obama_launches_nationwide_ad_c.html?sid=ST2008062300020

He has done a target analysis and knows that states with the most electoral votes are the targets to shoot at. He realizes that perception is reality as noted in an earlier post where I talked about his Internet trackers.

There are some other PSYOP fundamentals in the Obama campaign as well. Senator Obama is sending an array of messages to either signal his intentions or mask them. The Washington Post article said: “The scope of Obama's first advertising buy sent an unmistakable signal to McCain and the GOP that, at least initially, the senator from Illinois will invest money in states no Democrat has won in years, including Georgia, Indiana and Alaska.” This type of move is reasoned, clever and elegant. If Senator Obama can achieve measureable results in contested areas, consolidate these gains and ultimately prevail it will be because he attacked early on the information front and adjusted as effects were known.

Regardless of Senator Obama’s success in these areas, it will force Senator McCain to take some sort of counter moves thereby diluting whatever other efforts he might have had planned.

The Internet will be an important battlefield for this year’s election and it is pretty clear to me that Senator Obama has done well there, recognizes the nature of the beast and is not afraid to pump money into this medium as well. In fact, yesterday I noticed that there was an ad from Senator Obama on my Linkedin Home Page.

In short, Senator Obama appears to have an understanding of PSYOP and IO. Should he get elected, it would be refreshing to see a Commander in Chief who knows a little more about the pen than the sword.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Visiting Team PSYOP Challenges

Like most of you I receive a variety of e-mail and take part in a bunch of e-mail lists. One of my recent e-mails contained a 5 point discussion of the advantages that the Red Force (natives to the AOR) Since PSYOP by definition is the visiting team, I felt it would be very useful to examine the home team (Red Force) versus visiting team (Blue Force) from a PSYOP perspective and offer some ideas on how the visiting team can win more often.

1. Home Field Advantage – they know it, you don’t. Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) is essential. PSYOP preparation of the battlefield should go beyond the doctrinal IPB and include as much media and influence mapping as possible. Overlays showing significant groups and or bandwidths of influence of various leaders should also be employed as a means of achieving an understanding of the audience and environment. If possible employ personnel who are from that area and who have some credibility. If that’s not possible at least employ some talent that has been in the area in the recently or worst case in the past – perhaps relatives (even distant ones) of the current residents could be extremely helpful.

2. Organizational Experience – the Red team has played together before, often the blue has not. While liaison visits can be productive. Consider frequent personnel exchanges, joint exercise training, joint social events and any other creative means to develop the kind of bonding that allows one person to pick up where the other has left off and which fosters a high degree of trust. Trust needs to go up and down the chain of command, not to mention a peers.

3. Triggers and Flexibility – Blue team can show up with only one or two plays in their book and no way of getting an early warning of what is to happen. Study of the adversary, history of the AO and alternative scenario modeling to deal with unforeseen consequences. Drills and rehearsals can reduce uncertainty. From a PSYOP perspective - - think like the adversary and so without limits. Recognize that the adversary will take advantage of friendly actions and reactions and work to minimize the enemy’s IO success by thwarting exploitation of negative events when possible.

4. Consequence – the home team never gets to leave. Their relatives, friends and neighbors will not easily forget. This works both ways. PSYOP personnel need to be put themselves in the position of their audience to create messages that resonate on an emotional level and that are likely to cause reflective thinking by the audience long after transmission.

The visiting team is always behind the power curve; however, the curve can be flattened if the team recognizes the nature of the audience and the nuances of the AO on the same level as those who live there.