Thursday, May 27, 2010

Obama’s 2010 National Security Strategy and PSYOP

The last week in May 2010 is a particularly complex time. Headlines included the sending of 1,200 National Guard troops to the Mexican Border and continued angst over the alleged North Korean sinking of a South Korean Naval Vessel.

However, from a long term perspective, the quiet White House release of the 2010 National Security Strategy (NSS) of the United Stations. The NSS is the mother ship of security strategies from which all others such as the Defense Strategy, the Military Strategy, the Counter Terrorist Strategy, et al will be developed and with which they must conform. (See

There were some key themes that will have a significant impact on PSYOP and PSYOP forces during Obama’s administration tenure and perhaps beyond.

1. Alliances and Partnerships
While the President reserved the right to act unilaterally when necessary, he made it very clear that it was intent to capitalize on old alliances and new partnerships. His goal of strengthening and modernizing old ones while building new and deeper partnerships is complemented by stated tasks of training and assisting security systems (and forces) in at-risk states.

These notions combined with increased military to military contacts will no doubt put pressure on PSYOP to operate more frequently in a combined (multi-national) environment and to provide training, advice and assistance to forces of other nations that the President deems are important to US interests, values and international order.

2. Holistic Governmental Actions
The President made it very clear that he wants the Executive branch t to develop integrated plans and approaches. This includes more aggressive diplomacy where diplomats complement military forces no matter where they are needed and the ability to harness experts who can strengthen governance and support human dignity (via development efforts).

The NSS also plans to employ economic and financial transactions as means to advancing US interests and promoting US values.
The bottom line here is a greater demand for Civil Affairs (CA) capability and a critical need for CA and PSYOP to work together seamlessly in a variety of environments.

3. Engagement Across the Spectrum of Conflict
The NSS points out other goals the cut across the spectrum of conflict:
- Disrupt, dismantle and defeat AQ and its violent extremist affiliates in AF, Pak.
- Pursue sustainable and responsible security systems in at risk stakes
- Prevent the emergence of conflict
- Counter violent extremism and insurgency
- Foster security and reconstruction in the aftermath of conflict
- Stop the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials
- Resolve and prevent conflicts and heal their wounds.

PSYOP is a non-lethal battlefield multiplier. It is also a critical means by which the USG can communicate messages designed to catalyst behavior in conformance with the goals of the NSS. PSYOP is the means by which civilian populations are informed of CA activities and is a critical capability in gaining and holding information dominance which is a prerequisite success on the global state in the 21st Century.
Unfortunately the PSYOP community has not shown the ability to influence law makers and senior members of the Executive Branch of its importance. The need to influence has been overshadowed by the specter of cyber this and cyber that. While CA enjoys the benefits of a cadre of retired flag officers and a resourced association, PSYOP does not.

The ill timed split of PSYOP across two general officer commands (USSOCOM and USARC) needs to be unwound immediately and SWC needs to step up to the plate, as Regimental Home Base Commander and act as a catalyst to strengthen PSYOP’s clout inside the military and position a robust association to ‘educate’ the Executive and Legislative branches.

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