Tuesday, April 29, 2008

PSYOP Award and Regimental Update

By way of update on the prospects of a PSYOP award. USACAPOC facilitated a conference call among the Groups and others yesterday. Various names and concepts were discussed. Here’s an unofficial summary of where we are:

  • There is general agreement that a PSYOP award is badly needed.
  • The concept of two PSYOP awards was discussed. One award for military personnel, active, retired, reserve, deceased, etc. and another for non-military personnel such as civilians working in support of PSYOP.
  • It was agreed that Regimental Week is the most appropriate forum to present the award and that the award and its presentation would be another reason for all the Groups to actively participate in Regimental week.
  • While there was no general agreement as to the name of the award, MG McClure seemed to be the favorite honoree for the military award and Samuel Adams for the non-military one.
  • Additional research would be done on how other branches/regiments handle their awards such as Field Artillery, MI, CA, etc.
  • The results of the research and the way forward would be discussed at the World Wide PSYOP Conference with a possible goal being to present the first award at PSYOP Regimental Week at Fort Bragg, NC during the week of 3 June.

    As for the PSYOP Regiment – perhaps the time has come to formalize the Regiment. Past efforts have proven to be dismal failures in my opinion due to lack of participation and desire by the serving force and internecine activities between the two PSYOP Associations.

    To succeed the Regiment must be under the penumbra of the PSYOP Groups and supported by active, separated, retired and others who are interested in the formalization of the Regiment. It is appropriate to use this Blog as a discussion forum on both the Award and the Regiment.

    Your input is encouraged!

Military Media Analysts – What’s The Beef?

Today’s Defense News ran a story indicating that the Pentagon has suspended its “Media Analyst” program pending an internal review and no doubt based on the hullabaloo created by the story the New York Times ran on April 20.

For those of you unaware of what’s going in – in brief retired military officers have been given ‘special briefings’ by the Pentagon. During these briefings the Pentagon offered up some of their views (let’s call them messages). Interestingly enough these messages reappeared in the statements offered by the ‘analysts’ to the media.

Let’s take a moment to examine the issues:
1. Military analysts received special treatment.
2. The Military analysts were retired military who offered themselves up as experts.
3. The analysts were often defense contractors.
4. The analysts didn’t disclose whether they were speaking on behalf of themselves or the Pentagon.
5. Is it clear that the analysts were in agreement or believed the Pentagon messages or were they just parroting what they heard because of the briefings they received?

1. Special Treatment

The Public Affairs Office (PAO) provides routine and frequent briefings to the media. Since these analysts were regarded as ‘friendly’ they might have great access than media representatives whose past coverage has been less than positive.

However, there is no rule that all media people have to be treated alike. Having worked in the commercial sector, I can assure you that friendly media get more access than unfriendly media. Cause for concern? Maybe, but not as great as it is being played up to be.

2. Retired Military As Experts

Not every retired person is an expert. Rank and past achievements do not necessarily mean expertise – it’s up to the reader or viewer to assess the Expert’s worth just like the jury judges the facts.

3. Disclosure of Nature of Expert’s Business

The media running the ‘expert’ should have disclosed the expert’s affiliation. If the expert was a consultant, then it is up to the media to determine if the consultant has business ties that might impair their impartial judgment. It is not necessarily up to a consultant to disclose each and every client. After all, it was the media that desired to air or print the story – they need to assess the credibility of their sources, not blame the source for any misperceptions.

4. Disclosure of who is really speaking

Clearly the expert has to state that this is their own opinion or it’s the Pentagon’s view. They could also state their source was a Pentagon briefing and let the viewer/reader decide the level of credibility.

5. Belief or Parrot?

If one holds themselves out to be an expert, it is their ethical duty to express only those views and opinions that they feel are justified. It would be unethical to parrot a message that the expert knew or believed was false.

Bottom Line: The Media Analyst program may have a few warts, but it is not much different from the aggressive Press Relations and Analyst Relations programs carried out by many commercial enterprises. The real difference is that PR and AR actions in the commercial sector don’t translate to TV ratings or print readers.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cult of the Contractor

Since the middle of May I have been in the club sometimes known as “OGIT” – old guys in ties. I’m a contract consultant to a very large Defense Contractor who in turn has very big projects with a number of Defense and Non-Defense Agencies.

The premise of the founders of the firm was that retired military people make good employees. They show up on time, they dress like you tell them, never complain and bring a wealth of experience, particularly dealing with processes such as intelligence, training, operations, planning, etc.

Unlike most of the other work I’ve done as an independent, here I’m paid by the clock hour – an arrangement I don’t much like. However, I’m in by 7 and out 9 hours later, five days a week. The client government organization is more of an academic and research institution than a military one and the culture clashes are sometimes pretty interesting to watch.

My team and I are housed in windowless cubicles in one of the oldest buildings on the campus. The sort of off white cinder blocks don’t do much for the atmosphere, but the Spartan facilities provide the tools of the trade – computers, Internet and of course printers and copiers.

It’s the first time I’ve worked with ex-military guys about my own age since I was on active duty in 1968 – 1970. In many ways its quite refreshing since we all have similar backgrounds (3 other retired Army, 1 each retired Air Force and State Department) and experiences. All appear to have retired as COL or equivalents and I’m the only Reservist.

The atmosphere is very much heads down with fingers banging away on keyboards all day with a break for lunch and coffee here and there.

We’re clearly a supplemental resource and in the case of the organization we’re supporting, one that is totally different in skills, academic bent and perhaps temperament than the organization’s employees. Unfortunately its very much a project in isolation and as such as required a lot of creation within the bounds of our cubes and the Internet.

Our draft is being pulled together next week in a major reviewing and editing exercise before sending it on its way to be properly formatted.

I’ve learned a number of things in these 6 weeks:

Project based fees suit me better than time, except of course when I’m billing my civilian rates of $250 an hour, and even then I prefer projects.

90 days is too long to be away from home if you don’t have to.

Working with peers is a comfortable experience, but would likely lead to stagnation in the steady state.

My computer literacy is way on the upper end of the scale and it’s good to have a solid grounding in today’s and perhaps tomorrow’s technology.

There is a place for contractors in many environments, but thus far they appear to be truly consultants – specialized talents brought in to complement the existing workforce and for a finite project or period of time.

I’ll give some thought to my perspective for contractors in PSYOP in a subsequent posting.

Enjoy the spring!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

PSYOP Award – A Needed and Logical Step For the Community


First of all, my apologies to my faithful readers for not meeting my goal of one posting per week. In my defense I started an out of town assignment in mid March working for a Defense Contractor in a non-Defense government organization and have been pretty pooped. The nature of the work requires a minimum of 9 hours on site and the traffic situation involves a 45 minute commute or longer round trip. My personality is adverse to be locked in a windowless cubicle for 9 hours a day.

Having said that, I plan on writing a post concerning the life of a contractor and how it might apply to PSYOP.

On to PSYOP business.

The USACAPOC has initiated a project to develop and present a Regimental PSYOP Award. According to the project officer:
“The intention is to create something unique to the PSYOP Community to build esprit de corps and a legacy for the Regiment. Like the St. Barbara Medal and Order of Cincinnatus, Soldiers would be nominated by green tab leaders in their chain of command and endorsed by their respective Group Commander. The Regimental Commander would be the approving authority and would either present the award himself, or have one of his representatives (or a green tab leader acting in that capacity) do this in a public forum (Regimental Week? Family Day? Holiday Event?). The Commanding General or Group Commanders would authorize events when the medal may be worn (Dinning Inns/Dinning Outs, military balls, etc.).”

My feeling is that the Knowlton award, given out by the Military Intelligence Corps Association is a good model as well. See the next to last paragraph at: http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/army/mipb/1996-4/black.htm.
My belief is that we should name the award after our PSYOP heroes past and present. My personal nominees include (in alphabetical order): Colonel Aaron Bank, COL (R), MG William J. (Wild Bill) Donovan Jeff Jones, and COL (R) Al Paddock. A strong reason to name the award for a living PSYOP hero is to invite them to present the award and to make some comments about the state of PSYOP and their perspective of the future of PSYOP.

This is clearly a noble cause and one which has been overlooked too long. Reader thoughts are invited as comments or feel free to get them to me off line via my personal e-mail or at PSYOPRegiment@aol.com.