Friday, January 27, 2012

Combat Brigade Reduction, Djibouti and PSYOP

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there were a gazillion Soviet Divisions and America regarded the Division as the building block of the Army. Support functions like MI and PSYOP built their organizations to support these entities and the HQ above them. Today, the Army uses the Brigade as the building block for forces and in keeping with the budget reductions, the Army has announced that it is reducing the number of brigades from “45 to as low as 32” according to a January 25, 2012 article published by the Associated Press (

While this was going on the Navy Seals executed another successful mission in Somalia from a base in Djibouti. The Djibouti base is being hailed as the model for small force footprints for future operations. (Photo Source:

Taken together these two items present some interesting challenges and opportunities for PSYOP.

First of all, PSYOP teams will be required to operate independently more than ever before. They will also be expected to be highly deployable, yet able to bring to bear all the sophistication that today’s 7x24 news world demands. Frankly, I have little doubt that the teams will be able to execute their missions brilliantly.

My concern is Command and Control (C2). It appears that the traditional Group, Battalion, Company structure is being turned upside down. Hybrid operations be they Special Operations or General Purpose Force centric will require tailored C2 that can not only direct the operation but bring to bear the ‘reachback’ or other support necessary to conceptualize, produce and distribute the PSYOP work product necessary to succeed in these complex and unstructured missions.

Not only do we need significant organizational flexibility, probably involving well trained 04s and 05s to command and staff these hybrid HQ, but the linkages in doctrine and organization across both the Special and General Purpose Forces to insure seamless integration into the myriad of new missions and environments.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

PSYOP and the Starfish

One of the regular contributors to the Blog recommended that I read “The Starfish and the Spider” by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. (You can find a good summary at:

The premise of the book is that decentralized organizations have neither head nor formal infrastructure – just like the starfish is able to regenerate from a severed leg. One of the beginning vignettes is on how the Spanish Army could easily conquer the Aztecs, but the Apaches got the best of them for 200 years.

The messages for MISO/PSYOP professionals are actually pretty clear. Historically major conflicts have been force on force. Formal military organizations faced each other and the MISO battle was fairly straight forward. It was as I like to call it the “Surrender now and avoid the rush.” Campaign centered on getting the opposing force to surrender. This is no longer the case and the traditional, centralized, military Command and Control of influence operations needs to evolve to deal with ‘starfish’ type enemies.

When Al Qaeda surfaced as a principle enemy after 9/11 the influence war was turned on its head. While we had dealt with non-traditional forces such as the Viet Cong, the notion of a global, decentralized enemy was a new one. While military leaders are ensconced in a formal hierarchy, terrorist organizations such as AQ were a mass of amorphous decentralized cells.

The book proposes three strategies for defeating starfish:

1. Changing Ideology

Life is hopeless vs. there is hope, I can make my life better

2. Centralize them

Change from no hierarchy to some form of top down. Provides resources to the formerly resource poor leaders so that they become more fixated on using the resources for reward, etc.

3. Decentralize yourself – if you can’t beat’em join’em

Just how relevant are these suggestions to PSYOP/MISO?

For one thing PSYOP must work hand in glove with the Embassy Team and Civil Affairs to help eliminate or minimize the root causes that are stimulating the opposing force. By eliminating or reducing the root causes, the effect is to change the environment and with it the ideology driving the starfish.

Secondly, I believe MISO needs to be as decentralized as possible to be able to tailor the influence approach to the target at hand. However, we need to empower MISO soldiers with the resources needed to do the job whether this is a robust ‘reachback’ or cultural and linguistic resources or support of local credible spokespeople.

As we ponder which organization will be the Branch Proponent we need to take a serious look a doctrine and learn how to deal with the starfish and what other creatures come up.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Rare Good Example: Libyan Rappers

The January 11, 2012 issue of the NY Times featured an article “Now Able To Exhale, Libyan Rappers Find a Voice” ( which is also the photo source.)

The article talks about the new found freedom of expression in Libya. The GAB Crew have apparently been able to express themselves in ways they couldn’t even contemplate under Qaddafi. The group’s efforts are especially noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First of all of they represent a key demographic of individuals across the globe, especially those within Islamic societies. Secondly they have an international audience by virtue of appearing on You Tube (

PSYOP/MISO is like an orchestra. The end product is the cumulative effect of all the individual ingredients. Credible, local people are the best spokes people in virtually all situations. In some cases, especially where the language is common, the arts – specifically video and audio and can have dramatic effects on a number of audiences.

The GAB Crew appear to be a very good example of efforts that should be reported upon and supported.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Force Development Based on Fixed Parameters in a Variable World = Recipe for Disaster

I have some real concerns about the future of MISO under the newly released (5 January 2012) military strategy. (see The goal of the strategy is to protect America while optimizing the defense expenditures over the next decade. There is no argument about the complexity of the future security environment and the primary missions of the Joint Force are equally clearly stated as:

· Counter Terrorism & Irregular Warfare

· Deter and Defeat Aggression (1.5 major state conflicts)

· Project Power Despite Anti-Access/Area Denial Challenges

· Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction

· Operate Effectively in Cyberspace and Space

· Maintain a Safe, Secure and Effective Nuclear Deterrent

· Defend the Homeland and Provide Support to Civil Authorities

· Provide a Stabilizing Presence

· Conduct Stability and Counterinsurgency Operations

· Conduct Humanitarian, Disaster Relief and Other Operations

While the new strategy clearly states: “Likewise, DoD will manage the force in ways that protect its ability to regenerate capabilities that might be needed to meet future, unforeseen demands, maintaining intellectual capital and rank structure that could be called upon to expand key elements of the force.” The document goes on to say that the “active-reserve component balance” and other factors “is a key part of our decision calculus”. And “The challenges facing the United States today

and in the future will require that we continue to employ National Guard and Reserve forces.

The expected pace of operations over the next decade will be a significant driver in

determining an appropriate AC/RC mix and level of RC readiness.”

The President clearly wants to communicate to the American people that he understands tomorrow’s threats and that he and the DOD are aware of the challenges of defeating these threats while getting the best bang for the buck.

Many of the missions stated above are MISO/PSYOP heavy. Some of them, like Irregular Warfare and Cyber Operations are being executed while their supporting doctrine, legal ROE and TTP are being developed. This means that the picture of the Joint Force (JF) needed to fight and win these battles and conflicts is still emerging. It also means that the influence warrior of tomorrow will need to be pound for pound more agile and adaptable than any in history.

The restrictions placed on the force will also challenge the supply and deployability of trained and competent individuals. All of this implies that DOD must approach MISO Force Development with a view to the total competency of the force. Leveling of talent means leveling of training and other requirements. The difficult component balance challenge decisions that have been floating around for years need to be acted upon quickly or else the MISO force will be left on the wayside like yesterday’s weapons systems.

Unfortunately Congress has been historically focused on weapons and programs because they bring local jobs which bring local votes.

Somehow, the MISO/PSYOP Community at all levels needs to energize itself upward and the responsible DOD Senior Executives need to step forward quickly to bolster the funding and resourcing needed by the MISO Force expected to carry out this new strategy.