Thursday, November 6, 2014

MISO and the American Embassy: Two Peas In The Same Pod?

As many of my loyal readers know, I have been participating as the IO SME in a number of exercises which project me into the role of MISO Task Force CDR and PSYOP Evangelist. On the iteration which ended today I had the good fortune of working “an old hand” from the Department of State who provided invaluable assistance and guidance with this post.
The ‘influence war’ is fought with all of the instruments of national power. For MISO this means we must work very closely with the  Department of State’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs whose major efforts “include public diplomacy outreach, which in turn includes communications with international audiences, cultural programming, academic grants, educational exchanges, international visitor programs, and U.S. Government efforts to confront ideological support for terrorism. The Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs oversees three of the State Department’s bureaus -- Educational and Cultural Affairs, Public Affairs, and International Information Programs -- as well as the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications.  The State Department has some of their own acronyms, and the shorthand for the Under Secretary and the three bureaus is “R.”  With Foreign Service officers in the Political, Economic, Consular, and Management “cones.” Public Diplomacy officers also participates in foreign policy development.” (See: 
State’s concept of Public Diplomacy bridges public affairs, advocacy, and influence – with an eye both on short- and long-term effects.  Among themselves, Public Diplomacy officers wrestle with old and new concepts, including “evaluation,” “metrics,” “branding,” “narrative,” “storytelling, and “messaging,”
At first glance many of the functions and programs of Public Diplomacy look like they parallel MISO missions, so it makes logical sense for the two organizations to work together in a synergistic way. Some Embassy Public Affairs Sections host Military Information Support Teams.  While MIST may deploy with their own specific mission set (such as counter drug operations), doctrinally the MIST works for the Embassy PAO in the Public Affairs Section.
In some Embassies, Public Affairs Sections have offices in buildings without access to classified communications.  (Most of their work is public, open, and unclassified.)  Given that a MiST may require access to military communication channels, teams may spend time both in the Public Affairs Section and the office of the Defense Attache (DAO or DATT), and there is occasional tension from the arrangement.  Still, MISO personnel work as part of the Embassy team. This means that MISO personnel need to understand the Embassy’s organization and roles and be comfortable working outside the military chain of command.  Some personal “diplomacy” helps MIS teams work on programs that mesh with Public Diplomacy’s goals.
Military Information Support Teams (MIST) often work with Embassy personnel to provide research and other resources in a peacetime environment. They can meet with students, media, or other groups helping to augment a typically short staffed information section.  A MIST has its own travel budget, and it can draw on many resources (e.g. funding, Reachback, in place contracts, etc.) to implement a project or a communication program.  During operations MISO can supplement the Embassy in a number of ways. The can facilitate research on issues and audiences, and they can develop what Public Diplomacy people call “programs.” 
Assignment to a MIST can benefit MISO personnel by exposing them to the diplomatic world, the full range of U.S. departments and agencies that form a Country Team, and offering a complementary perspective on influence operations.


Anonymous said...

"While MIST may deploy with their own specific mission set (such as counter drug operations), doctrinally the MIST works for the Embassy PAO in the Public Affairs Section."

I can't find this in any Psychological Operations Doctrine. Can you illuminate on your reference, or was this just what your embassy "old hand" explained to you?

Lawrence Dietz said...

@Anon - thanks for the question. I must admit that assessment comes from my analysis. Analysis based on past conversations with former MIST personnel among other sources. I did not pull that one from a manual. If you have served on such a team, I'd appreciate the feedback. My take is that the Teams are indeed serving two 'masters', the MISO Chain and the Embassy.

Miguel Soto said...

Mr Dietz, thank you for this post. It definitely gives some good insights into what we do on a MIST. The only addition I would make to this is that the chain of command (if you will) is different from post to post. Ultimately that MIST works for the Chief Of Mission (CoM). All of the products that a MIST creates and disseminates will have to be approved by the US Ambassador. They coordinate directly with the PAO/PD to ensure all messaging is in synch. Usually the PAO has a concur/non-concur section of the approval process, but ultimately the US Ambassador is the final approval. The better relationship you have with that PAO the more he will be willing to go to bat for you and help you gain approval from the US Ambassador.