Saturday, July 20, 2013
Following up on my last posting -
The July 14, 2013 ForeignPolicy web news published an article: “U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News to Americans“ (see: http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/07/12/us_backs_off_propaganda_ban_spreads_government_made_news_to_americans?wp_login_redirect=0, which is also the photo source).
Readers are encouraged to learn more about the Broadcasting Board of Governors which overseas Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Liberty. However, in my casual reading I did not find any references to MISO or even the DOD.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the world is all atwitter over documents released by former NSA Contractor, Edward Snowden. You should also know that these disclosures have raised significant concerns about domestic surveillance. It is not a great leap of faith to see how attention could be focused on other forms of government action, especially defense or law enforcement activities that may encroach upon the rights of US Citizens.
From a PSYOP/MISO perspective, the Washington Post in its 7 July 13 edition ran an article “Somali American caught up in a shadowy Pentagon counterpropaganda campaign” (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/somali-american-caught-up-in-a-shadowy-pentagon-counterpropaganda-campaign/2013/07/07/b3aca190-d2c5-11e2-bc43-c404c3269c73_story_1.html which is also the photo source).
The article notes that the DOD cannot conduct PSYOP in the US nor “target U.S. citizens at any time, in any location globally, or under any circumstances.” (Source of the quote not referenced in the article.)
The article describes actions taken by Navanti, a contractor (http://navantigroup.com/) in Somalia. The article quotes public records as stating “Navanti was working as a subcontractor for the Special Operations Command to help conduct “information operations to engage local populations and counter nefarious influences” in Africa and Europe. “ The article also raises issues with respect to the impact of those actions towards a Somali American resident in Minneapolis.Warsarme, had posted extensively on line and it appeared that he was a likely supporter of al-Shabab, an Islamist militia which has been declared a terrorist organization. Navanti claims that as soon as it realized he was based in the US they turned his information over to the government. Warsarme for his part was quoted: “I’m an American citizen,” Warsame said in an interview at a cafe in Minneapolis, home to the largest concentration of Somali refugees in the country. “I don’t support al-Qaeda. I don’t support al-Shabab. I don’t send them money. I’m not supporting killing anyone.”
For the MISO community this is a giant red flag. We need to engage aggressively in our mission and we need to be able to defend our actions legally as well. Unfortunately, it is not clear if there is any US agency that has the domestic responsibility for countering influence activities that are contrary to US interests.The 1st Amendment is one of the ways we are set apart from other nations. The text of the Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (Source: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/print_friendly.html?page=bill_of_rights_transcript_content.html&title=The%20Bill%20of%20Rights%3A%20A%20Transcription)
The text says nothing about government’s right to observe the speech nor does it say anything about trying to counter that speech. Cyber Influence is growing in importance and unlike kinetic trajectories, it is often impossible to predict where cyber campaigns will impact.
That being said, we all know perception is reality and that one thing MISO/PSYOP doesn’t really need is more Congressional scrutiny.
As always, reader input solicited.
Friday, July 12, 2013
Before I get into this week’s post, I would like to extend a very big thank you to Psychological Operations Qualification Course Class 05/06-12 for the honor of being their graduation speaker last week and to the faculty and staff of the JFK Special Warfare center.
A special thank you goes to 5th Battalion for their gracious hospitality.
Now – on to this week’s posting - - -
I subscribe to the Economist because I like an ‘unAmerican’ view. As a British publication they often say what would be politically unacceptable in America. During my time at SFOR in Bosnia I often referred to the Economist as ‘the answer key’ because it explained what happened in Bosnia the week before in such a way that made sense. Something I couldn’t do because I was in the thick of it.
However, not all foreign (in this case non-US media is so benign. One of my sources sent me a link to a foreign publication in which an article on the Boston Marathon bombing concluded: “In short, I believe the Boston Marathon bombing has all the signs of an OP: a psyop, a false-flag operation that is one more grizzly event in the marathon of mind control imposed by the U.S. government on its own citizens to justify its ever-expanding security/police state, and divert attention from the ever-shrinking civil rights held by the people” (See http://www.tehrantimes.com/yuram-writings/106956-psyops-mind-control-marathon-and-boston-bombings which is also the photo source.)
The article walks through events surrounding the bombing and alludes to “Western Propaganda” and distortion of the events surrounding the bombing throughout.
The point is not whether the article is pure journalism or whether it is Iranian state sponsored propaganda, the source is the Tehran Times of course, but that we in PSYOP/MISO need to be on top of what key foreign media are saying and if possible to be on the lookout for measures of effectiveness that show whether or not their message is getting across.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
I was honored to be the graduation speaker for the latest PSYOP Qualification Course, here's my presentation. The class consisted of 22 Officers, 52 NCOs, 6 Sister Service (Marine NCOs), 6 Allied Officers (Brazil, Estonia, Korea, Latvia, Mexico, Thailand), and 17 USAR Officers
I am pleased and honored to be your graduation speaker today.
I’m hopeful that I wasn’t selected because you figured that an old guy would be glad to be invited back to Bragg and not afraid to mess up a long weekend.
I asked your Faculty what I should talk about and they suggested that I should give you a little insight as to how things were in the ‘old days’ and how they are different today.
Seemed like a reasonable place to start, so here goes.
My first PSYOP assignment was in 1989 when I became the FD Team Chief at the 7th PSYOP Group at the Presidio of San Francisco. Don’t bother trying to figure out the acronym, it doesn’t stand for anything. The FD team was an Intelligence Team assigned to the Group – we were kind of like the market research department for the Ops people. A mini SSG if you will.
We were mostly on our own and as I recall assembled files, you know the papers in folders that went into metal cabinets. From there I served as Group XO, S2 and S3.
The highlight of the S3 experience was working then COL Altshuler on the quarterly USRs. To put it in historical context for you, the object of the game was to report the Unit’s Readiness on forms that were derived from punched cards. This lasted several days each quarter and could be compared to a long visit to the dentist.
In 1994 I was appointed CDR of the 12th PSYOP BN. A position I served in for four years including a tour in Sarajevo which I called my semester abroad. As it turns out my time at the SFOR NATO HQ was very much of a graduate education in working with senior European Executives.
My last PSYOP assignment before retiring was as an IO at SOCOM where my main job was to act as a grumpy Colonel and ask really smart ass questions of 04s and 05s who were going to brief a certain very hostile GO.
I was elected as Honorary Colonel of the PSYOP Regiment in 2003 and served until October 2010.
I started the PSYOP Regimental Blog in 2007. Since that time I have made 325 posts and received 393 comments and over 100,000 page views.
With that as background –
How was the Regiment back then?
The Regiment, to be candid, was a bit like the North and the South during the 1860s, admittedly a bit of an exaggeration, but the AC and the RC just didn’t play well together. Up till that point there just didn’t seem any way that the two components were going to admit they were in the same business.
This changed quite a bit during the Command tenure of Colonel Jeff Jones at the 4th POG, he and my boss, COL Altshuler got along very well, this filtered down through the staffs and the relationship between the components flourished. I still remember one trip to Bragg where I was called out of a planning conference to go to the “Green Ramp”. I was quite surprised to find that it was neither green nor a ramp and actually looked like a Greyhound bus terminal in Fresno, CA.
My sister AC BN, the 8th POB was being sent to Somalia and the CDR, LTC Chris St. John wanted a few words with me and presented me with his coin. Needless to say my stomach felt a bit queasy as their plane took off.
Today all y’all need to be very certain that you are one team and in the same business. When you hit the field you will be judged as a part of MISO community whether you’re AC or RC so hopefully you can all do the job up to the same standard.
This is a bit of a commercial for SWC, our proponent. The doctrinal notion of earmarking one unit for supporting one type of force and another for a different force is a bunch of crap.
Added this from the DOD ESGR Briefing: 2014: The New Normal:
Bottom line = The new fiscal and security environment requires the Services to reexamine their AC/RC mix and how they can best utilize their RC. Given the fiscal and budgetary pressures, it is clear that the RC will continue to be utilized as an operational force.
The overall force is shrinking, unless of course there’s another Iraq or Afghanistan, so that assignments will likely be made ‘for the good of the service’ and each of the serving force will need to be skilled to do the job without regard to who their original unit of focus may have been.
In 1997 I arrived in Sarajevo on my 51st birthday with my first active duty ID card since 1970. Working as an American officer in an alliance is a special calling. I don’t believe everyone is suited for it, but rest assured many of you will get that opportunity.
Officers in particular have to be more adept at working with other nations now and beyond. You will find that working with your peers is a very rewarding experience and you’ll be surprised that you’re more alike than you thought. A bunch of us 05s would get together over coffee and talk about how our Colonels all wanted to be generals and how they would suck up to all the stars they can find.
I’m sure that’s very different today …….
In terms of the profession of MISO, outside of the technology, I don’t believe all that much has changed.
For confirmation I sought some input from one of the great PSYOP Historians, Herb Friedman, Curator of PSYWAR.org.
Herb made a few key points that I would like to share with you:
· It never hurts to tell the truth.
· You are a force multiplier.
· Generals as Schwarzkopf have practically said that victory would be much more difficult without you.
· Combat commands are suspicious and will want immediate results.
· Be sure you level the expectations.
· PSYOP is like water dripping on a rock.
· Targets must be prepared, carefully nurtured and eventually they can be taken.
· There are no miracles, just hard work that will eventually influence both neutrals and enemy targets and save lives.
Let me offer a few more comments.
To coin the common phrase, we are in the era of the strategic NCO.
Future MISO will mean that NCOs in particular will shoulder more responsibility and have to function far more independently than ever before.
You will need to know when to employ technology and when to use your gut. As the people who get the job done, you have to master both hard and soft skills. You will need to know how to take and edit video on the fly then craft the proper words in the right dialect with the right nuance to reinforce the video to accomplish your MISO mission.
And you may have to pick out which person in the village is the right one to talk to.
Officers have the unenviable task of managing up. This means you need to work through your chain of command with a high degree of concern for your troops and an extra measure of common sense.
You need to determine how to carry out the OpOrder in the most effective, yet safest way and you need to raise your hand if you think there are major issues that need to be addressed prior to launch.
The day of easily identifiable enemy forces is over. Influence operations by their very nature are not all directed against uniformed enemy forces. Part of the challenge of future MISO is to focus your efforts on those targets that make sense.
I used to categorize targets for senior officers using their favorite system: Red, Yellow & Green. Green targets were those individuals and groups that were already pre-disposed to our efforts.
The Yellow Group was the most important target. They were the people who either hadn’t made up their mind or who could be influenced to see things our way.
The Red Group are those targets that would be better served by UAVs because their minds are made up, they don’t engage rationally and are totally committed.
Next I would like to broach a topic that is often ignored in places like SWC and that is the role of women in MISO. I sometimes say that when I come to Bragg, my IQ goes down, but my testosterone goes up.
It is ridiculous to ignore the obvious and that is women are a key component of most target audiences and clearly a prominent factor in today’s battlefield. We need to ensure that our MISO ranks include women who can relate to target audiences and function effectively as NCOs and officers.
Let me leave you with this thought – today is the 150th anniversary of Pickett’s charge in the Battle of Gettysburg. Like some of you I have been to the bottom of that hill and while I’m not an infantry guy, it was pretty clear to me that charging up that hill was not a really good idea.
How do you think that battle might have turned out if the defenders on Cemetery Ridge heard the loud noises that artillery fire and rebel yells from large masses of troops coming up their flanks?
Thank you for your kind attention and best of luck.