Yesterday, 6 December 2012, USA’s website (but not today’s printed edition) touted an article: “Special Operations Command leads propaganda fight” (see: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2012/12/06/socom-leads-propaganda-fight/1746013/) in which they have apparently woken up to the fact that MISO personnel (on the active side only of course) are part of SOCOM and that these professionals are deployed around the world supporting US government missions.
The article points out that the SOCOM efforts include the virtual world and that some of the supported media do not carry US DOD attribution. The article is based on a September 2012 report by the Stimson Center and can be found at: http://www.stimson.org/books-reports/the-pentagon-as-pitchman-perception-and-reality-of-public-diplomacy/ which is also the photo source of the report’s cover.
One of the report’s conclusions was:
“Most of the defense activities often implicated in public diplomacy should not be.
These include most of the activities the Defense Department defines as information operations, public affairs, building partnership capacity, and even most tactical military information support operations.”
If you have the time, you can read the entire report (which I haven’t done this morning because I have two planes to catch) or can read this quote from page 17:
“No MISO can be categorically called tactical since all influence operations can have strategic effects, but most MISO is closer to the tactical end of the spectrum than the strategic. These activities are not like public diplomacy.”
From a Regimental Perspective – this article, like the one I profiled last time evokes negative images. In many ways it reeks of some poor journalistic techniques by selling newspapers through headline innuendo.
Our Constitution goes a long way to making sure that the press can do all of this, but we, as professionals, have an equal or perhaps greater duty of setting the record straight.
The challenge remains: how does the Regiment counteract this type of article? My best guess is that the soon to be announced Regimental Association needs to have a Public Affairs Committee and authorized spokes persons who can talk on behalf of the Association and by implication the Regiment. We also need to think about a systematic information stream to Congress so that the staffers who may not be familiar with defense issues can turn to an articulate and authoritative source.