Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Information Fire Control – A Homogenous Branch Is Not The Answer

The debate over PSYOP and its relationship to IO rages on. The latest salvo comes in a Military Review article, “Merging Information Operations and PSYOP” ( The author, Lieutenant Colonel Fredric W. Rohm Jr., U.S. Army, Retired, advocates merging PSYOP and the Functional Area of Information Operations (IO) into a single branch.

I am of the opinion that this is not a good idea, especially at this time. Rather I see the article as another episode in the continuing professional soap opera of career planning. The issue to be debated now is not branch specialties, but how to make Commanders more effective through better use of information oriented weapons systems.

Commanders today are facing greater challenges from ineffective use of information as a tool to achieve their goals. These challenges include the fact that Commanders at all echelons including General Officers and Flag Officers (GOFO) are for the most part unaware of what information tools they have at their disposal or could harness to achieve their particular goals.

Another is that each of the elements of IO and PAO require different training and talents. Furthermore each of these specialties has its own strengths and weaknesses. Commanders need a single staff officer who can orchestrate all of the elements on behalf of the CDR just as the “2” orchestrates all of the facets of intelligence and the “3” plans operations employing a variety of weapons systems. This orchestration of all aspects of information in the Area of Operations is the crux of the information issue – not branching.

A good analogy might be the symphony orchestra. Each instrument must be played by a consummate specialist, yet it is the conductor who blends each of the individuals to create beautiful music. Blending the various elements of information in concert with each other to achieve the CDR’s goals is very much the same thing. The elements of IO (PSYOP, EW, MILDEC, CNO, and OPSEC), PAO and PSYACTs (Economic, CA, Engineering, etc.) must be executed by specialists and orchestrated for maximum effect.

Given the high optempo and the stress on the Force, I don’t believe a homogenous branch is needed. Rather staff officers for each function need to be present at the BCT and above. BCT specialists in each discipline should be Majors. Their efforts would be managed by the BCT Operations Officer. The Operations Officer likely a MAJ or LTC would either have had BN Command or is likely to get it. Consequently experience at the BCT staff would be exceptionally helpful.

The Division should have its own Deputy Chief of Staff (DCS) for Information. This slot should be manned by a LTC and echelons above Division should have a COL as their DCS for Information. These DCS jobs should be held by individuals who have had experience in one or more of the elements of IO to include PAO, but more importantly have developed as strategists able to blend the information elements on behalf of the CDR.

There is however, one caveat to this idealist picture and that is that the doctrine and tactics of CNO may not lend themselves to tactical implementation due to a number of factors such as legal issues, national boundaries, technical skills and/or resources.

Consequently it seems to me that an effects oriented approach is the better road to take and would be more likely to yield the results Commanders are looking for than homogenizing branches of diverse specialties.


Owensthom said...

With all due respect, I think you missd the point of Ric's article. The article is not about the differences between PSYOP and PA, and to categorize it as a "professional soap opera of career planning" misses his point entirely. The bottom line, which Ric has clearly pointed out is that there are not enough of us out there to satisfy the commander's needs and non-influence trained folks are being asked to do what we are supposed to be doing.

I agree with Ric, merge the two career fields into one non-assesstions branch, train the folks who do not have a PSYOP background in the art and science of influence, the regional studies/cross cultural communication and the language pieces of the pipeline. It gives us a larger pool of trained bodies to satisfy the existing and future requirements and it takes the word "psychological" out of the conversation so that we can focus on what is important which is meeting the supported commander's objectives.

To further comment using your music analogy - what I have seen happening from my position is that the the conductor in front of your symphony, was yesterday wearing a helmet and shoulder pads on the grid iron, and is now trying to wave a magic wand and make music. He neither knows what sound each instrument makes nor how to play any of them. He just knows that if he waves his magic wand long enough and hard enough a sound will emerge and that unfortunately seems to be passing for good enough.

Lawrence Dietz said...

Concur that there are not enough tranined professionals. Also agree that some conductors don't make symphonies.

All of that being said, I don't believe a branch is the answer. Commanders need to have better awareness and more competent personnel need to be trained.