Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How do you influence the PAO?

The October 17, 2016 Defense News ran an article “DoD is Losing the Online  Fight to Win Hearts & Minds” (see: http://www.defensenews.com/articles/dod-is-losing-online-fight-to-win-hearts-and-minds; which is also the photo source).

I was attracted to the article because of the title and expected to see yet one more treatise on how the overpaid contractors charged with executing the DOD on-line influence war  were not doing their job. Interestingly, the article makes the case that a major problem with the US on-line influence programs is the resistance from Public Affairs.

The article describes how NATO is trying to recognize the significance of the influence issue by forming a strategic communications directorate and that the US is the only holdout. The article’s author, Robert T. Hastings should know about Public Affairs because among other assignments he served as acting secretary of defense for public affairs from 2008 to 2009.

PAO has generally taken the view that they must remain and chaste and pure, avoiding any taint of ‘influence’. Having had the opportunity to work Joint Exercises at DINFOS, the DOD school that trains Public Affairs Officers, I’m of the opinion that the ‘new generation’ of PAOs has a much more profound appreciation for social media and the on-line world than their top brass.

The inability to integrate PAO efforts into the influence fight dilutes our influence efforts and has to stop, the sooner the better. While I’m generally not one to editorialize, the DOD is a pretty simple organization; it works from the top down. SECDEF needs to bring MG Malcolm B. Frost, Chief of Public Affairs (see: https://www.army.mil/info/institution/publicAffairs/chief/)  into his office along with General Raymond A. Thomas III, CDR, USSOCOM (see: http://www.socom.mil/Documents/Command_Bios/Gen%20Thomas%20Official%20Bio.pdf) and have an open discussion about DOD’s need for unity of effort with regard to Public Affairs.

The buck has to stop somewhere, and it looks like it needs to be at the top or we will continue to lose influence ground to our enemies and adversaries.

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