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:

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.

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