Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Furlong Affair: PSYOP and Intelligence – What’s the deal?

The New York Times among others has reported on investigations concerning alleged inappropriate activities by senior government official Michael D. Furlong (see Furlong, currently a Senior Level executive, is the Strategic Planner and Technology Integration Adviser, Joint Information Operations Warfare Command, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas (reference: is at the center of a swirling controversy as to whether or not he inappropriately used funds allegedly earmarked for information operations for unauthorized intelligence gathering through contractors. (Photo courtesy US Air Force)

Furlong retired as a LTC after serving in PSYOP slots among others. The controversy seems to imply that there is an unholy alliance between PSYOP (or information operations which appears to be used synonymously in most media pieces) and intelligence.

There are some key points that need to be made here. First of all, PSYOPers are not intelligence collectors. They may be trained observers who can report what they see, but they are not out to collect intelligence. Good PSYOP, like effective marketing and sales, is based on a solid understanding of the target audience, what motivates it, its leadership, what influences it and what are the best ways to appeal to that audience and convince them to behave in the desired manner.

Most of the time PSYOP intelligence needs are not the same as the CDR’s intelligence needs. The CDR’s Commander's Critical Information Requirements (CCIR) generally relate to the operations at hand. Most CDR (General McChrystal excepted) are solely interested in that information that will allow them to accomplish their direct mission which is usually kill or capture the enemy. Predilections that are important for influence purposes rarely make it to the CCIR list.

At the core of the Furlong matter is the allegation that he employed a media company, International Media Ventures ( as an outsource for intelligence operations. The company’s website proclaims that they are in the strategic communications, media and content businesses. A look at the “About” section and you discover that the company leadership is mostly ex-SOCOM types.
What’s the point? If Furlong was outsourcing intelligence, that’s a bad idea, if International Media Ventures was engaged in intelligence operations that’s stupid business because it compromises their ability to provide the kind of products and services expected in support of USG sponsored influence operations.

When the dust settles I am willing to bet that no laws will have been broken, however, the DOD ‘brand’ has suffered just as surely as Toyota is still recovering from their gas pedal issues. Perception is reality especially where PSYOP and influence operations are concerned. Practitioners are under a higher duty of care to insure that USG strategic communications and operational/tactical PSYOP are not tarnished.

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