Thursday, February 23, 2017

Communicating in An Urban Disaster


PSYOP/MISO are often called upon to help out in Disaster Recovery by communicating information to those affected by the disaster.

San Jose is the 10th largest city in America with over 1 million people. The Coyote Creek runs north from Morgan Hill, CA. It is feed by Lake Anderson, a lake behind an earthen dam – Anderson Dam. For years the dam has needed seismic retrofitting and was supposed to be kept at 68%. Due to the recent rains here the dam was at 100%. A spillway is used to drain the water. The spillway flows into the creek which meanders through San Jose. If you Google “Rock Springs, San Jose” you’ll get a nice map.
At one point 14,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders. These were ‘delivered’ block by block. There was also wide spread TV and other media coverage.

. This week my wife and I are working for the Red Cross in support of the San Jose (CA) Coyote Creek Floods. My role is that of Lead Public Affairs Officer.
Government and community organizations needed to get information out to the affected people and the general public. The Red Cross opened two shelters to support those impacted by the disaster. Given this as background, here’s what I’ve learned so far this week.

1.     Almost everyone is glued to his or her cell phone.
2.     Charging stations and WiFi are more important than washers and dryers.
3.     Language skills are always useful. They are helpful in working the and of course, those impacted by the disaster.
4.     No matter how urbanized an area may be, you will need low-tech communication media. There is no substitute for face-to-face communications or flyers. Merely putting something on-line is not enough.
5.     As in war, no plan survives contact. The dynamics of a disaster and the effects on the population are always unpredictable.
6.     Once the disaster subsides, politicians will scramble to pin the blame elsewhere.
7.     Broadcast media channels are competitors. They are each scrambling to find the best images.
8.     Reporters and politicians say what they think their viewers/listeners or constituents are most likely to want to hear and not consider the big picture of what actions people should take or not take to lessen the suffering.

Reader input invited as always.

Photo Source: The Author

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Leaflets Still On The Job In Age of Social Media

While we are attached to our smartphones day and night, it’s useful to bear in mind that printed media such as leaflets are still powerful tools in today’s PSYOP arsenal.

Leaflets are still effective in hard to reach areas. Operation Inherent Resolve’s PSYOP team is employing leaflets in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. (see:; which is also the photo source). For information on Operation Inherent Resolve, you can check out their web page at:

The 3rd Military Information Support BN, part of the 4th Military Information Support Group soldiers are deployed in support of operations in the Middle East. The article quotes the operations SGM for the Military Information Support Task Force (MISTF) who commented on the use of leaflets in denied areas:

“Creative ways to communicate must be found and used to ensure our message is received in denied territories.” “Recipients on the ground will sometimes take photos of the leaflets and post them on social media thus amplifying our message,” the operations sergeant major added.

Each ‘order’, or set of leaflets is custom tailored for that customer and that situation. Production is closer to the customer as a means of improving delivery time. The Production facility is located in Qatar rather than back at the US HQ at Fort Bragg, NC.

Teams rotate from Fort Bragg into Qatar, but the quality of the product and the spirits remain high. According to the SGM “The team has done amazing work,” he said. “The professionalism of the team led to every job being timely delivered even if it meant working extra hours or during scheduled down time. It was a pleasure working with a dedicated, mission-focused team.”
Of course leaflet deployment requires considerable planning. In addition to content, it’s import to consider how the audience will respond to paper fluttering down from the sky and to factor in the wind and other variables that will impact delivery.

The point is that today’s world is not all iPhones and FaceBook. Influence comes in a variety of flavors. PSYOP/MISO personnel must be conversant in a variety of media so that they can employ the best ones to the job at hand.

Friday, February 10, 2017

EW: The Forgotten PSYOP Weapon


It’s been a pretty busy week and I almost didn’t make a posting. That is until I spotted an old piece about garage doors and the Navy. The headline reads “ Radio signal from U.S. Navy submarine base blamed for mystery of garage doors in Connecticut opening and closing at random” (see:; which is also the photo source).

The essence of the story is that radio signals from the Naval Submarine Base New London (which gives its street address as Groton, CT) were the probable cause of the bewitched garage doors. The sub base noted that the signals were part of the Enterprise Land Mobile Radio (ELMR) System.  A quick Google search came up with which claims that “This system is deprecated, and may no longer be in use or is superseded by another system. (see:

Having started my career in the EW/SIGINT world I know that there are good things and bad things associated with jamming. For those of you who are not EW aficionados, jamming means overpower a friendly signal so that its intended receiver cannot receive it.

The good news is that you can deny the enemy the effective use of his transmitters be they radios, television broadcasting or mobile phones. The bad news is that it’s not stealthy. Targets generally know when they have been jammed.  Another element is that jamming is generally a broad based weapon meaning all electronics are effected; although there are some ways to jam only selected frequencies.

The use of EW can also have a psychological effect. For example if an enemy force feels that they are not only surrounded physically, but they are cutoff electronically, this may induce them to surrender.

While TTP should dictate that EW should easily be brought into play, this is not necessarily the case. The tactical fighter typically does not have EW resources on hand. Furthermore, a sophisticated analysis needs to be performed of the impact zone of the proposed jamming to determine the nature of collateral impact.

What does this all mean?

It means that the MISO CDR needs to be thoroughly familiar with and connected to their counterparts in other disciplines. Today’s posting scratches the surface about EW. The posting urges MISO CDR not to overlook adapting tools of warfare that have not typically been included in PSYOP or MISO.

Reader comments invited as always.
I’m presenting at the RSA Conference in San Francisco next week – shoot me a comment if you want to connect.

Friday, February 3, 2017

President Trump’s Actions Make Winning Hearts & Minds Even Harder

When I was in marketing in High Tech, there was always a great fear of tarnishing the brand. Actions that made our company look bad and causing our potential customers not to buy our products and services.

President Trump has taken three actions that are tarnishing the American brand and making our job even harder.

“Travel Ban”
The first is the ‘Travel Ban’. While the administration maintains it is necessary for national security, the impression is that it is anti-Muslim, a clear move away from America’s tolerance principles and a step towards fascism. One article on that topic is from Brookings. (See:, which is also the photo source)

“The Wall”
Building a wall on the Mexican border is not an effective way to stem the tide of illegal drugs and immigration from that great nation. Even the President’s own Homeland Security Secretary believes it won’t work (see:; also a photo source)

The Russians tried a wall in Berlin and we know how that worked out

Selling the “American Brand” or convincing people around the world that democracy and constitutional freedoms are the best sort of government is hard enough. When you tell some ‘you are not welcome’, you are not only denigrating the ideals, but also saying “I hate you!”.

While the administration maintains the travel ban is not a ban against Muslims, the world thinks differently, resulting in great danger for people who have helped us in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m talking about interpreters in particular. These native citizens literally put their lives on the line to support US and Coalition troops. By invoking such a draconian move, we are turning our backs on the very people responsible for our success.

The third way President Trump is making our job harder is by espousing the believe that torture is actually a productive intelligence technique. (See:

It appears that I am in good company. Even James “Mad Dog” Mattis, Secretary of Defense opposes the ban. (see:; which is another photo source)

I’ve been an analyst of one kind or another – intelligence, market research or legal analyst for most of my adult life, which has been a pretty long time so far. I’ve also taken more than a couple of sales training courses. I am firmly convinced that torture is not an effective interrogation technique.

Even if that repulsive method was helpful, the amount of information gained would in no way come close to the harm in terms of how many new terrorists have been recruited.

I know that the President believes in what he is doing, and strangely enough for a politician, actually following through with campaign promises. I just wish he would have looked at the bigger picture before acting.