Thursday, July 8, 2010

On The Firing Line

The smoke is still swirling around the MISOing of PSYOP. Rather than being able to sit back and analyze it all, I find myself on the front line (so to speak) as I undertake my role as the “PSYOP” Subject Matter Expert (SME) for an exercise at a major DoD School.

This is my third performance in this role, so I’m familiar with the scenario, the nature of the students and of course the faculty involved. The past two exercises have been pretty smooth in terms of information support to the hypothetical task force. Annex H for PSYOP was developed and there was significant interaction with Public Affairs and Strategic Communications under an Information Operations (IO) aegis as the exercise evovled.

The current mission is quite a bit different. First of all I had to update the Faculty on the details of the name change and provide them with the appropriate phraseology to convey to the students. This also meant answering a lot of questions for which there are frankly no answers.

Fortunately I have a few knowledgeable resources who came to my rescue so that I could put the best face forward for MISO possible under the circumstances. Since the exercise is predicated on a natural disaster and is less than a week long, my level of response should prove adequate.

But I candidly worry for my brothers and sisters in the PSYOP/MISO (forgive me the legacy usage) community who will have to devote their precious time to explaining the rationale for the name change, divine what other changes can be expected when and otherwise tap dance until the chain of command responds with some definitive answers.

I’m not so much worried about how SWC will adjust unit names or Branch descriptions, I’m frankly worried about the big picture. Will anything other than the name change? Will DOD decide that IO is a function or an overarching branch that should include MISO, EW, PAO and CNO. In either event, what new doctrine, organization or resources will be applied to elevate the information Battlefield Operating System to the level of kinetic warfare across the spectrum of conflict?

I’m also concerned that the recently touted ‘new’ Army strategy scheduled to be published in August 2010 was created in the kinetic world with little attention to the information battlefield and in spite of the growing specter of irregular warfare and the quagmires we find ourselves in with our forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and who knows where else.

Let’s hope I’m just being a little paranoid, which is in my nature being an MI type who grew up in Brooklyn and that the powers that be have actually given the big picture some uncharacteristic deep thought.


Anonymous said...

I persoanlly think its a really big slap in the face to every soldier for some civilain to decide he dosent like a name that the army has had in its vocabulary and legacy since the start of world war two. It makes as much since as saying "infantry sounds too childish from now on they will be footsoldiers of the common order (FSCO)"
I have been a member of the regiment since June of 2000. and in the army since 1987.I have seen a lot of good Ideas and about 3times as many bad ones. I refuse to use such a stupid term as (MISO) to describe what I do. if you want "miso" go to a resteraunt and leave my Branch of the army alone. I personally don't believe we will win this war by changing our names and spending lots of money to do so. This is the first time I have ever responded to the blog I normally just watch.

Anonymous said...

Sir, I have some questions for you, why, in gods name, do you support this name change? How can you call yourself a PSYOPer when you willingly correct people to say MISO? Why would you think that the name change will be "Good" for us? Why have you not acted to preserve the PSYOP name? Are you a traitor or a "Yes Man"?
They shouldn't change the name of PSYOP. PSYOP has been around for decades, and the name itself has been a source of empowerment to the soldiers. The enlisted men on the ground that do all the dirty work. From the Private in the PDD at CJPOTF, to the Team Chief doing all he can to keep a BN cdr from rolling up a village elder. We are experts in culture, and have the ability to keep the people happy and well informed. We also are the ones to make the people fear the might of the US Military, and turn them against our enemies. Perception is our watch word, we are the subject matter experts. But now, with a simple name change, we are broken. The enlisted personnel of PSYOP are up in arms, creating facebook pages and other websites dedicated to trashing the phrase MISO. You sir, must not feel the cut of the knife that we do, for you seem to embrace this crap called MISO, and defend it to others. You beleive the memo from the SWC CDR and agree that it is not punitive? I say its punitive for a crime that hasn't been committed. I along with others feel that this was a personal attack on PSYOPers everywhere, an attempt to "Reign us in" for 4th POG pretending to be SF. WE in the reserve groups do all the hard work, putting up with conventional commanders, down in the ditches with the infantry, all while having our training money siphoned off by USARC. But still we accepted that, we dealt with that atrocious insult. And now today, we face a bigger insult, MISO. A slap in the face to anyone who has actually done PSYOP, on the ground, as an enlisted soldier. A big fat F@$! you to the men and women who do the work, who make things happen. The people who actually get out and convince people to make change. So of course the Officers of our units see this as ok, they sit in their offices, send their NCO to the staff meetings, so all they have to do is put a rubber stamp on the hard work of others, usually with very very little input. Now I know of several, PSYOP officers, who know the work, love the work, and offer nothing but support to the enlisted persons under them. Those Officers, are as offended as I.
So please sir, I beg you to clarify for me, why is this ok.

Persuade, Change, Influence

Lawrence Dietz said...


Thank you for your comment and your passion for the community. I never said I was in favor of the name change. My position is that we are bound to obey lawful orders of those appointed over us. I personally don’t care for the name change and it’s quite clear that anyone who cares from friends to enemies understand who we are and what we do regardless of what unit names we serve under.

When the Secretary of Defense and the Chief of Staff of the Army makes a decision, there’s not much that can be done. My personal belief is that while the name change may have been proposed through the chain of command, the President and the Secretary of State or the minions (with due respect to Mr. Gru) were pushing for it.

Any one who knows me can testify I’m not a ‘yes man’, and as for traitor, a true PSYOP professional understands the power of words and remains a professional throughout any debate.

Clearly it is the soldier, marine, sailor or airman and the NCOs who are doing the ‘work’ on the ground. However, it is up to the officer corps to do battle by managing up the chain – something that apparently did not happen with any effectiveness with respect to the name change.

I don’t think the move was punitive, not well thought out perhaps, made without the input of those in the trenches, but not punitive. I was especially disappointed that the RC PSYOP leadership was not adequately involved in the decision process, but this was not the first time, nor is it the last time.

I have been on the record that all PSYOP must be under the same chain of command. The current ASOC/USARC split is ludicrous at best.

The community is a team and we all must support each other to insure that the ‘brand’ put on influence operations (which is what we do) is not tarnished by petty tirades or short sighted tantrums.

Anonymous said...

LTC Dietz,

As I have been out of the loop for some time, I was wondering if you could clarify some things. I know that there is a name change, but does that mean that the PSYOP units will all have to reflag as MISO? What was the reason behind the name change? Does it change any of the duties of the PSYOP soldier? And what is the name change supposed to represent. I really have no idea whats going on.
I've asked my NCO's, but they get way too angry about it to talk about it.


Wizard said...

Let's not pretend that our community wasn't given every opportunity to recommend a name change or to flat out rebut the need for one in the first place. This has been a decades long issue that for whatever reason was only given a cursory glance by our senior leaders and our proponency office everytime it arose. Now, the deed is done. Big Army has said "you had your chance, now we're telling you what you will be/do." Our focus should now be on what we will do, or perhaps more accurately, how big Army will REACT when a MISO Soldier is asked by a reporter what it is he or she does exactly? When this warrior answers, "I am conveying selected information to foreign audiences to influence...." and when the reporter then says, "sounds a lot like PSYOPS" and finally the Soldier replies, "yep" get ready for the proverbial excrement to impact the rotary oscillator.

Lawrence Dietz said...

@ Wizard - while I don't know who and how the community was involved in the current decision, I concur with your assessment. As I put in my Blog post yesterday - we need to move on and do our jobs. Of course the name change doesn't change what we do!

Lawrence Dietz said...

@ PSYOP Specialist.

I’ll do the best I can to help you out. As you have found out, there is a lot of emotional unhappiness over the change.

Sooner or later PSYOP units will be reflagged as Military Information Support Operations units. SWC believes this will happen no later than fall 2010.

The main reason given for the name change was that the term psychological operations (PSYOP) had a lot of bad baggage and negative connotations, especially outside the military.

Duties remain unchanged.

Hope this helps.

COLONEL (R) Larry Dietz

Anonymous said...

First I'll say that this decision was not made by "some civilian"; it was made by ADM Olson (Commander, USSOCOM) and GEN Casey (Chief of Staff of the Army) and endorsed by SEC Gates (Secretary of Defense). (Like it or not, the Constitution has the US Military ultimately report to civilians.)

There has been discussion at the senior level about changing the name of PSYOP for years. Most recently the subject came up last fall during the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).

One of the issues that came out of these discussions were the problems the Joint Staff and Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) had getting funds appropriated from Congress for PSYOP activities. This is where the negative connotation and misunderstanding of PSYOP came into play.

The definition of PSYOP includes the words "adversary" and "target" (among other) and seemed to describe an "attack". As the Army and DoD shifts its focus more towards COIN and IW and is trying to "win" wars by not fighting them (i.e the focus on Phase 0 and TSCP), this definition seemed to aggressive. (I'm giving you the opposing view here).

While COL Paddock would argue that this could be overcome by simply educating Congress on what PSYOP really is, the consensus of the "group" was that changing the name was the better course of action.

The initial concept was to keep the term PSYOP in the lexicon as the activity and the name of the units. An additional term was introduced; Military Information Support (MIS). MIS had basically the same definition as PSYOP except is was conducted during Phase 0 and influenced host/partner Nations and allies.

In December of 2009 USSOCOM hosted a Senior Warfighter Fourn (SWaRF). The SWaRF was a discussion with the Deputy Combatant Commanders (3 Star level) on issues affecting PSYOP. The name change and new term were discussed here and the consensus was that it didn't matter what you called it, as long as the definition didn't change. The capability is what is important.

The decision by ADM Olson (acting as the Joint Proponent for PSYOP) came as a surprise to almost everyone. Not that he directed the name to be changed, but that he did it so quickly and with so little discussion.

The name of choice, Military Information Support to/for Operations (MISO) came about because ADM Olson already had the Joint Military Information Support Command (JMISC), and numerous Military Information Support Teams (MIST) assigned to him. MISO seemed the logical choice to him.

Supporting the name change and agreeing with the name change are two different things. As a Soldier, I "obey the orders of those appointed over me".

Hope this helps to clear up some of the confusion.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all of the clarification; as it was understood at lower levels, this was an attempt to move us closer to IO, remove our approval process, and give up a lot of our traditions. If, as you say, that the mission and job functions remain unchanged, and that this will help to alleviate the funding issue. Than maybe it isn't such an awfull thing afterall, I would however, prefer that we remain TPTs etc. I personally think that it would be easier to tell a commander that "We're PSYOP sir" rather than explaining that MISO is PSYOP and not IO.
Thanks again

A concerned PSYOP NCO

Anonymous said...

Based on some of the things I have read, I agree that a change could help fix some issues, but is there a remote possibility of getting one that's not a joke? The MISO jokes on the internet go on forever. Do you think that something can be done to avoid the ridicule and horrible jokes?



Lawrence Dietz said...


I'm afraid that nothing can be done to stem the tide of the flow of jokes. However, like most other 'fads' this too will pass. Grin and bear it - if you can use the humor as an opportunity to explain what we do and use concrete examples to show why our mission remains important regardless of the name.

Salil said...

This name change won't affect our mission? According to whom? According to Adm. Olson this includes an change in organization, doctrine and practice. How can we keep pretending that PSYOP hasn't just been defanged into oblivion?

Salil said...

Also - USSOCOM is not authorized by US Code to conduct MISO, it is authorized to conduct PSYOP. So how can this change go through, legally, without legislative action?

Lawrence Dietz said...

@Salil, the legality is an interesting question. I wonder if your Congress person would know.

Soldier-Cynic said...

Something else to consider is the combined environment. NATO conducts PYSOPS regardless of what the US calls it. ISAF is a NATO mission, so what US forces do in support of ISAF is PSYOPS.

Lawrence Dietz said...

@Soldier Cynic - great logic; concur with your sentiments.

Salil said...

The DoD is aware, as per a leaked memo, that there are legislative hurdles to clear, but what concerns me is the conflict in communication.

Adm Olson says a change in doctrine, practice, and organization, the DoD says its just a name - well, which is it?

Lawrence Dietz said...

@Salil - that, Sir, is a very good question. I don't know the answer, but perhaps others out there in the Blogosphere can comment.