Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Don’t Touch That Dial: It’s SOCOM!

According to the August 20, 2013 edition of the Tampa Tribune (see: http://tbo.com/list/military-news/socom-seeks-system-to-control-am-fm-transmissions-in-emergency-20130820/) “In future natural disasters or battlefield operations, U.S. Special Operations Command would like to be able to take over local AM and FM radio transmissions to broadcast its own message.” 

In a related item: The Headquarters, United States Special Operations Command (HQ USSOCOM) is seeking sources to provide a radio broadcast system capable of searching for and acquiring every AM and FM radio station in a specific area and then broadcasting a message(s) in the target area on all acquired AM and FM radio station frequencies.”. 

There are two ways to look at this: 1. Domestic Disaster Communications and 2. Overseas use.

Domestic Disaster Support

No one can doubt that natural disasters such as Katrina and Sandy require drastic measures. These disasters along with the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco show that traditional communication means are not effective during and shortly after many disasters.

There is a pressing need to get information to people affected by disasters quickly and reliably. MISO resources have proven effective in limited situations such as loud speakers after Hurricane Andrew in Florida See (MISO resources have proven effective in limited situations such as loud speakers after Hurricane Andrew in Florida. See: http://www.psywarrior.com/PSYOPHurricaneAndrew.html

Prudent disaster planning – natural and manmade – requires considering wider scenarios than have taken place in the past. Consider that passenger airplanes had not been used as weapons prior to 9/11.
SOCOM has been working with the US Department of Homeland Security to bolster domestic capabilities with military capabilities in the event of disasters. 

Does it make logical sense for SOCOM to have the ability (even with proper legal precedent and authorization) to be able to override the information and messages being broadcasted on domestic commercial AM and FM radio? 

For radio broadcasting to be effective there needs to be functioning transmission and receiving capabilities. On the receiver side, battery, hand powered and automotive powered radios will likely be functional after a disaster. Does it follow that the broadcasting stations will be functioning and that their antennas will still be in good enough shape to transmit? Not necessarily so.

However, assuming that they are, does it make sense to have a military resource available that can transmit the government’s messages over the commercial airwaves in the face of a disaster? My response would be probably yes. Local first responders whether government or NGO generally have only limited resources and capabilities. These capabilities can be quickly overwhelmed as we have seen in past disasters - - consequently a military resource would be helpful.

In the larger context, isn’t it more likely that the mobile phone will be most people’s information source? Smart phones have become indispensable for the normal activities of daily living – wouldn’t they be even more critical in a disaster?

Perhaps mobile phone ‘takeover’ technology would be in the SOCOM procurement pipeline down the road.

2.       Overseas Use

The ability to quickly take over an enemy’s means of communicating with their population would give the attacker a very significant advantage and that’s all I’ll say on the matter at this time.
SOCOM is the proponent for influence operations (except PAO of course) and has to plan for the future even in the face of potential political issues such as the fallout from NSA surveillance, Snowdon, Manning, etc. 

Overall, the ability to quickly convey information over commercial airwaves would seem to be a logical step in that direction. Further discussion perhaps at another time.

Photo source: www.SOCOM.mil

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