Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Building A Task Force? Start at the top.

One thing about the military and that is you can count on a manual or a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for just about anything. Whether it’s marching or filling out a form, there’s sure to be a document around to tell you how to do it.

So – why does it often make sense not to even open the book?

I’m on assignment where we are simulating the staff of a MG that has been hastily assembled in response to a crisis in a foreign country. As usual, I’m the IO SME and the task of establishing the nature of the MISO task force falls to me.

My starting point was the probable rank of the Task Force (TF) CDR and a SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) as to the comparable size of the MISO unit.

Having had many years of dealing with real and notional Task Forces as well as a perspective on their size and leadership through the years, my gut feel is pretty good and, as it turns out, backed up by doctrine as well.

Over the years I’ve learned some valuable lessons. One of those is that success on a staff may be due in part to your ability to gain access to the right meetings and working groups and to be able to hold your own in these groups. Sending an exceptionally talented officer who is too junior in rank might work in the commercial sector, but not in a senior headquarters.

I recall that my boss in Bosnia was an 06, while I was a humble 05. He felt that access to the GOs was so critical to the ultimate success of the unit that he insisted on billeting with them at the NATO HQ while I was ‘with the troops’ on the other end of town.

Turns out that he was right as some battles where just to get in and see the right person to able to state your case. Access was very much based on rank rather than competence.

Reader input is encouraged.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The 2016 Super Bowl and PSYOP

I’m probably the last guy in the world to use sports analogies and I duly apologize to my non-US readers – but the 2016 Super Bowl was a great example of PSYOP.

The ‘smart money’ was on the Carolina Panthers and their astounding Quarterback, Cam Newton, to best the ‘old-time’ Denver Broncos and their fading leader, Peyton Manning. Manning was, after all, the oldest QB to play in a super bowl.
(Score Photo Source:

While Denver had a good defense, the Panthers were touted as an all around better team. After all, they had a 16/1 record and had won a number of games in blow-outs during the season, while Denver had some real squeakers to make it to the Super Bowl. Their young and mobile QB was 6’5” and weighed in at 245 pounds – bigger than ‘normal quarterbacks. (See:

A key military principle is that the advantage goes to the defender. Does this mean that a good defense will counter a great offense? Perhaps, but not by itself.

In the case of the Super Bowl we had kinetic PSYACTs. QB sacks and forced fumbles combined to rattle the seemingly always-confident Newton. Perhaps it was because Carolina had not faced such a good defense all season, or perhaps Newton is too young and inexperienced in the NFL to deal with setbacks or perhaps the Super Duper Super Bowl stage was too big.

Here he is walking off the field. Clearly a general who has been defeated, perhaps by himself. His counterpart, Peyton Manning was not much of a star, but he was the general of the winning ream.  (Source:

PSYOP can work in many settings – even in sports!

Friday, February 5, 2016

PSYOP and Commercial Influence: Another Perspective

I was attending a training session for the DOD Employer Support to Guard and Reserve (ESGR). During the session I was asked to give an impromptu introduction into “Marketing”. Since there is an on-going conversation as to the similarities and differences between commercial influence (marketing, sales & Public Relations) and PSYOP/MISO, I thought I would share the essence of that presentation in this posting.

I view the commercial influence world as three complementary functions: Public Relations (PR), marketing and sales. Unlike the military where the reporting structure is clear, this is sometimes not the case in the commercial sector. I have been in organizations where Marketing, Sales and PR each are headed by Vice Presidents and report to the CEO. In other places Marketing and PR are combined.

PR has a clear mission: communicate the organization’s messages.

Sales also has a clear mission: generate revenue.

Marketing’s job is primarily to support sales, but can also provide support to PR.

In the military world Public Affairs (PR) is the CDR’s voice to the media. They reach target audiences both foreign and domestic through the media.

PSYOP, for the sake of discussion, has the marketing and sales missions.

In this case I equate sales to “Face to Face” communications. PSYOP teams are in direct, personal contact with the population and take on the role of a sales force.

MISO forces create products that are used in the media and are used directly with the population. MISO can purchase or trade for print space or broadcast time. They can, as do commercial entities, hire contractors to write white papers, articles and OpEd materials in support of the CDR’s messages. (Note: this post is not meant to discuss issues of sourcing and attribution, but rather only the techniques.

MISO also creates leaflets (sort of like commercial brochures), posters, comic books, etc.

Commercial entities are making aggressive use of Social Media with an emphasis on FaceBook and Twitter. Strikes me that PA is the right military specialty to take the CDR’s messages through Social Media. I’m not quite sure that MISO doctrine has caught up with MISO’s role in Social Media and invite informed readers to chime in here.

The point of today’s entry is that there are valid comparisons between commercial influence and PSYOP/MISO. They may not be exactly right – but they certainly can explain MISO to CDR and other stakeholders.