Friday, December 23, 2011

Good OPSEC Helps To Control PSYOP

The death of Kim Jong Il, seemed to have taken the Western World by surprise. The viel of secrecy over North Korea allowed the North Koreans to pick their time and their messages concerning the death of one leader and the succession of his handpicked replacement. While the West scurries about trying to figure out what will happen to North Korea, the world’s most secretive country moves forward anointing their new leader.

The December 23, 2011 Wall Street Journal featured an article: “Kim Ki Nam has one of the toughest jobs in North Korea” ( The lead in the article is “The 82-year-old former professor heads the department in North Korea's ruling party responsible for filling North Koreans' minds with awe, devotion and unswerving respect for the dictatorial Kim dynasty.” No doubt multiple government agencies are now preaching the gospel of Kim Jong Eun (photo source AP via the WSJ).

The North Koreans are master propagandists. They have shown their ability to create myths, recast history and seem to be able to mold the thoughts of one of the poorest nations on earth. One of the ways that they have been able to maintain such an ideological grip is because of the ‘lock down’ nature of the society and the government’s almost total control of life north of the 38th parallel.

A key take away for PSYOP/MISO is that OPSEC can be a ‘booster shot’ for campaigns. By shielding the target audience from key facts or events, the launch of an influence campaign can be that much more effective.

This will be my last post until the week of 9 January 2012. To all my readers – the best to you and yours for the Holiday Season and may 2012 be your best year ever!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Unity of Command?

The principle of Unity of Command is a core tenet of military operations. Unity of Command increases accountability, prevents freelancing, improves the flow of information, helps with the coordination of operational efforts, and enhances operational safety.

There is no denying that today’s battlefield is unlike those of the past. Afghanistan has evolved throughout the past decade into a mosaic of AOs, each with its own bred of enemy. PSYOP, now MISO is critical to the battle and to the maintenance of a lasting peace. Given the length of the conflict and the amorphous nature of the enemy, not to mention the criticality of the recalcitrant ally, Pakistan, it would seem that DOD should do all it can to organize for success.

The diagram at right is my view of the PSYOP/MISO chain of command. To quote Harry Truman, the buck stops at the top, in this case with the Secretary of Defense. To even the most casual of observers this should appear ludicrous. Even if we argue that the MISG and the POG are troop providers, there is no easy way to determine if the forces being provided are trained and ready for the mission at hand.

In my view the force needs to be united and united under a single Command. Furthermore, the Branch Proponent as to be the Proponent for entire branch, not just one component or the other. While President Obama may declare the war in Iraq over today (15 December 11), it is not since Iraq has not shown that it is capable of standing on its own. The notion of Afghanistan being self-sufficient after 2014 is also pretty farfetched at this point.

Influence operations support will likely be more in demand over time. As yet unnamed conflicts in Africa, Latin America and Asia will surely require PSYOP/information support. This support cannot be developed overnight. As we stare the budget cuts in the face, it is incumbent on DOD to finally get off the dime and move RC PSYOP back into the SOF world where it belongs.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

SWC As the Branch Proponent

This week, I'm asking for your help. I am interesting learning how y'all view SWC as a proponent. What have they done right? What are they doing wrong? What do you think they should being doing that they are not?

It has been my philosophy to post every anonymous comment I get except if it's commercial, SPAM, etc. If you would rather e-mail me then use

Have a very good week.

Logo source:


Thursday, December 1, 2011

NATO Attack on Pakistan: Taliban PSYOP or Fog of War?

There is no question that relations between the US and Pakistan are in the crapper. The latest debacle was a NATO Attack on Pakistani forces on 26 November 2011. The incontrovertible facts are that at least 24 Pakistani soldiers died as a result of the attack. (See “Afghans say commando unit was attacked before airstrike was called on Pakistan -

Pakistan maintains the attack was deliberate, the US says it was not and the Afghans frankly don’t seem to give a sh*t . Conservative leaning publication, the Washington Times ran an article “US suspects NATO was lured into raid” (

If it’s not the fog of war, it certainly is the fog of who can get their facts straight and their story out. A rash of other stories are circulating about whether or not the US will apologize, whether the mil to mil relationship between the two countries will continue and of course what does it portend for the region after the US withdraws the bulk of its forces as forecasted.

For the influence profession we can learn some powerful lessons:

1. If it is true that the Taliban were clever enough to orchestrate attacks or targeted fires to provoke an attack – this means that there are some pretty big holes in the ROE and the process of confirming your targets. It also means that once again a supposedly primitive foe has demonstrated some very sophisticated thinking

2. PAO and MISO/PSYOP must be on the same page. PSYOP may have the ability to provide PAO with input, insight, file footage and/or other help. Of course due care must be taken so that PAO’s integrity and credibility is not compromised.

3. PAO needs to counsel GOs and other senior leaders on what to say and perhaps, more importantly what not to say in fluid and uncertain situations.

4. As shown by the photo from the Washington Post, any excuse will be deemed a good one by our enemies to show popular sentiment against NATO and the US.

5. Bad news, unlike wine and chicken soup, does not get better with age. Speed is of the essence with regard to investigations and getting the word out.

6. Notwithstanding the most neutral of investigations people will believe that they want to so contingency counter propaganda and demonstration plans must be implemented.

7. The strategic importance of Pakistan as an ally mandates the diplomatic channels to include President Obama need to be engaged. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister for example is quoted in the Washington Post as being ready to pull Pakistan’s support of the US war on militancy. Ministers are influenced by diplomats, typically not by military personnel.

No matter what the truth is behind the attack, all of us need to consider the lessons to be learned and the ways and means to avoid a similar situation in the future.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Simply Don’t Get It or Too Much Political Correctness?

Normally I only do one post a week, but the Politico (a source I never heard of before and cannot vouch for their political leanings or view) 11/23/11 article “Cross removed at base in Afghanistan” (see struck me as something worth covering.

As shown in the photo (from the same source), apparently there was a very large cross on the outside of the chapel at Camp Marmal. A Facebook page about the camp quotes Wikipedia “Camp Marmal is the largest base of the Bundeswehr outside of Germany. It is located outside of Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, at the foot of the Hindu Kush mountains. The camp was opened in September 2005. The camp gets its name from the bordering Marmal Mountains.”

The article was picked up by UPI and probably some others. According to the article the cross was taken down because it violated DOD rules.

As I recall one of the senior generals in Afghanistan, perhaps General McChrystal was instrumental in removing signs that the American force were ‘distinctly American” and alluded to the fact that ISAF was going to be there for a while.

Should the base CDR, be they American, German or any other NATO nation have permitted the cross in the first place? Does a large religious symbol of a Western religion offend Afghanis? What would the effect have been if there was a Star of David or a Wiccan Symbol?

Does the feeling of comfort to Christian soldiers (as quoted in the article) outweigh the likely negative perception of the Afghans?

I’ll leave it to you. If you have one, enjoy the long Holiday weekend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Digital Engagement = Cyber Counter PSYOP

A colleague referred me to a 17 November 2011 article in the NY Times headed: “U.S. Military Goes Online to Rebut Extremists’ Messages” (see: The article talks about a Digital Engagement Team (DET) reportedly established in 2008. The team chief, MAJ David E. Nevers was quoted as describing the teams mission to “counter extremist ideology, promote cultural awareness and explain U.S. interests,”.

The article provides a description of the team and the languages they cover (Arabic, Dari, Persian, Pashto, Urdu and Russian in case you’re interested). The Times compares the open efforts of the DET with the highly classified and generally shielded US military efforts in Computer Network Operations (CNO).

The DET’s engagements are “transparent and attributable” according to MAJ Nevers. The team’s approval cycle can take hours and while, as the Times points out, this isn’t ‘real-time’ it’s a heck of a lot faster than any approval cycle I’ve been a part of.

The article also refers to the State Department’s Digital Outreach Team as a complementary effort headed by Richard LeBaron, a former Ambassador to Kuwait, that organization’s coordinator.

There is no question that the DET is a laudable effort, complimented as both effective and cost-efficient by Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism analyst at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research group in Washington in that same article.

There are two reasons I’ve pulled this article for today’s post. First of all we hear so much negative crap about the influence war, it’s nice to see something positive for a change. However, perhaps more intriguing are the questions the DET raises to me:

1. Are they part of the MISO element to CENTCOM or the STRATCOM element, or are they an organizational hybrid?

2. To whom does the DET OIC (Officer in Charge) report to and what senior officers are in his rating chain?

3. Is this simply a ‘one off’ created because of Centcom’s AO?

4. Given that the DET’s actions are really global because their WWW AO is amorphous, how can a single Combatant CDR be given responsibilities for the other AOs?

5. Do they have a set of ROE and formal procedural guidelines?

6. While measures of effectiveness (MOE)are notoriously absent from this kind of endeavor, are we capturing the lessons learned and TTP in a systematic way to be applied elsewhere?

7. Are we aware of similar allied efforts and have we tried to promulgate this type of effort through NATO?

8. Does it make sense to set up a similar PACOM effort to address the Asian AO?

The DET passes the common sense test and appears to be a good idea whose time has come, I’m just wondering if we’re making the most of it.

Speaking of ‘making the most of it’, take some time to enjoy your family friends during the Holiday Season. As we learn, life is short and unpredictable. I’ve already lost a colleague to a fatal stroke this year and another is in a hospital after his stroke. Neither were military and both were part of the information security industry – the lesson is enjoy what you can with gusto.

Happy Holidays

Photo Source: CENTCOM official Website (