Friday, May 18, 2012

MISO In the Hot Seat


On Thursday, 17 May 2012 USA Today reported that “House panel calls for serious cuts to propaganda spending” (See: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2012-05-17/congress-information-operations-funds/55045982/1).
  The article points out:
1.       MISO programs are “essentially marketing efforts aimed at persuading foreign audiences to support U.S. interest, though Pentagon officials acknowledge that little proof exists about their effectiveness.”
2.       Programs are allegedly poorly tracked (although this is improving).
3.       U.S. sponsorship of messages is often hidden because of the U.S.’s lack of credibility in the region.
4.       The Pentagon IG is investigating Leonie Industries the principal contractor for the MISO program.
5.       There are several Congressmen, Rep Hank Johnson (D GA) and Norm Dicks (D WA) who are active in criticizing the program and seeking to block additional funding for ‘propaganda efforts’.

What does all this mean to us in the Community?

First of all it’s clear that ‘we’ have done a terrible job helping Congress and other elected officials understand what we do. For a craft that prides itself on communication, this is a sad state of affairs. Of course I realize that serving military personnel are limited in what they can do or say, however, the Army maintains a Congressional LNO (http://ocll.hqda.pentagon.mil/) which is tasked with this responsibility.

Perhaps LTG Mullholland should pick up the phone and have a serious chat with the GO in charge to insure that the proper information is flowing to Congress. It would also be appropriate for non-serving Community members to engage their elected representative as I’ve advocated previously. (Photo source: http://www.soc.mil/rv4_images/USASOC%20-%20LTG%20Mulholland,%20John%20%28Class%20A_large%29.jpg)

However, I’m afraid there is no substitute for being there. The action is in DC and that’s where the education campaign needs to be centered.

Stepping down off the soap box – as an attorney I’ve learned that “truth is the absolute defense” if you can prove it of course. No doubt MISO efforts have generated some success in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Surely not at the level of the Battle of Midway, but some tangible success that can be documented or perhaps shared via video. 

I feel it would be appropriate for the Group CDR to work together to produce a YouTube Video that shows how, why and where MISO has worked. This video could form the basis to help educate elected officials and others.

In parallel, ‘we’ need to be developing metrics of effectiveness that can help document our successes and convince our customers and funders that we know what the heck we are doing.

5 comments:

aaron mcdowell said...

Measuring the effectiveness is a function of the accuracy of the incoming data. How can an industry that historically lacks transparency deliver scientifically sound information to non-government/non-partial auditors? Too much money is at stake.

Anonymous said...

I have some questions about MISO. What would be a suitable email to contact the blogger?

Anonymous said...

Our current predicament does not stem from a lack of education in the Congress; it stems from the fact that Congress understands what we are supposed to be doing but that we have failed to show them we are doing it. Congress correctly understands that what they are paying for is to provide an influence capability to DoD. DoD’s primary influence capability is MISO.

There has been a requirement since Q4, 2009 to report the effectiveness of “IO” programs to Congress every quarter. We can debate the correct use of the term IO but what Congress wants to know is if the MISO programs they are funding are effective. As a community we have failed to provide objective data that prove our programs are having the desired effect on the target audience.
By objective data I mean "This program caused x% increase in the desired behavior". For example in many cases, but not all, reports to Congress say things like "500 people attended the concert we sponsored". So what? The intent of the program is not to get people to show up at a concert (I hope). If the concert is held to increase support for the HN government, then the metric we need to report on is the increase in support. It doesn't matter if 1,000,000 people show up at the concert if, at the end of the day, not a single one is influenced to support the HN government. As a community we have either lost sight of this, have not captured it, or have failed to articulate it in our reports to Congress.

Congress is well educated on what they are funding. They know that we are supposed to be using this money to influence people’s behaviors but we haven’t been able to show them we have been successful. Budgets are becoming more and more constrained and the fight for resources is getting fiercer. It is incumbent on the MISO community to prove to Congress that we are making good use of the resources entrusted to us.

Lawrence Dietz said...

Follow-up e-mail may be sent to: lawrenceddietz@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Far beyond the MISO community educating congress on what we do, the private sector and contractors "hired" to do this for the military need to understand what they are doing and explain it to the rest. That the MISO community (both AC/RC) have allowed IO to dictate the how, when, where of MISO and then come up with their own ideas and concepts is a story told too many times and basically is just an excuse now. There needs to be a redefining of what tactical MISO is and how we can increase our capabilities to mesh it with operational and strategic. It's a novel concept when we actually synchronize efforts and keep the structure inside the military instead of outsourcing it.