Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Arggh! PSYOP and Pirates

Somehow it seems fitting to Blog about PSYOP and piracy on the day that US taxes are due. The Pirates and the Navy’s recent rescue of a Merchant Marine Skipper have been all over the media. The pirates, however, undaunted by the sniper induced deaths of the colleagues, continue to ply their trade at sea capturing several more ships.

Sooner or later the subject of information engagement, especially PSYOP, will come to the fore. In a 4 hour drive today I pondered to say about the subject and while I don’t have an immediate or short term fixes I have some observations and recommendations. Since I’m not actively involved in today’s operations I have no personal knowledge of what is already going on, so here’s my two cents. It is important for me to point out early on that I don’t see the “Pirates” as a top down formal hierarchy, but as a loosely configured nest of criminal gangs where they have likely taken formal or informal steps to divide territories and potential targets among them.

1. Put The Navy In Charge

First of all the Navy is the lead and the Naval Special Warfare Command ( should be the designated proponent for information engagement doctrine and TTP concerning pirates. Information engagement against this form of enemy must include the full range of options: PSYOP, CNO, Deception, EW, and deception. Furthermore, the Navy should immediately commission a study of pirate activity over the past 5 years to be able to dissect past attacks to develop taxonomy of the enemy TTP and a range of courses of action to employ against them.

Pirate operations should be included in any upcoming reviews and enhancement of maritime strategy for littoral areas as well as traditional ‘blue water’ operations.

2. Training

Naval officer and NCO training, especially surface warfare, electronic warfare, intelligence, and communications Navy Occupational Standards (NOS) should all receive cross training in the form of a mandatory information engagement module with a variety of case studies designed to challenge the students and incorporate a wide range of possibilities.

3. Numbered Fleet Ramp Up

Each numbered fleet should have a reinforced Information Engagement section headed by a Commander (05) with experience in the full range of information engagement operations. If the Navy is unable to fill these billets, then consideration should be given to rotating tours for Army PSYOP personnel, and in the event neither is available, retired personnel or contractors could be employed if necessary.

When necessary consider augmenting specific information engagement resources with other personnel who may be qualified by NOS, civilian expertise, cultural knowledge and/or other factors.

Numbered fleets should prepare information engagement contingency plans and should carefully consider who communications with media (especially non-US media) and what messages concerning the current action should be transmitted. This recommendation means that PAO is a critical element in dealing with the pirate enemy and must be given as much consideration as when to deploy snipers.

4. Include the Marines

In addition to Navy actions, Marines stationed on board vessels should be qualified in Marine Corps PSYOP TTP (which is the same as the Army’s).

As always, reader comments are invited.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was in the Navy's 7th Fleet out of Japan, and we spent a lot of time hunting pirates in S.E. Asia. There are a lot of natural choke points in shipping lanes.
This isn't a new problem, as keeping sea trade open is, and has always been, the Navy's first priority. This isn't something that is just coming back, it is just something that is now popular with the media.
The truth is that events happen at sea often, and no one knows because they happen at sea, where there are no reporters and a tight control of information. We would square off the the Chinese fleet all the time and it was never in the news. North and South Korea have active sea battles that you will never hear about too.
The Navy is in charge of this effort, but that isn't something that's new.
I would love to go aboard a ship again and help our sailors with psyop, though. I hope they ask.