Friday, October 27, 2017

The Chief Speaks About Adversary Propaganda – But Can He Really Do Anything About it?


On September 26, 2017, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, USMC
testified before the US Senate Committee on Armed Forces (see:

Part of his testimony appears below:
Do you think that the Department of Defense needs to better integrate its capabilities and planning for cyber operations and information warfare?

Yes. The Department must improve our ability to exploit the potential of cyberspace as a pathway for Information Operations to drive adversary perceptions, decisions, and actions (or inaction) in ways favorable to our strategic ends. We must also improve our ability to reassure friends and support allied and partner military efforts to defend against and defeat adversary propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation, much of which is delivered via cyberspace.

If so, how would you recommend that this goal be achieved?

Cyberspace is one of many domains through which we can conduct Information Operations. In order to improve cyber-enabled Information Operations, we should continue to prioritize growing and maturing our cyber forces. We are working toward this goal by integrating our approach to the information fight from the ground up, building Information Operations and cyberspace doctrine, guidance, and tasks into our strategy development and execution orders, adopting an active and innovative approach to improving understanding and fluency in the domain, and developing new operational and organizational constructs and advanced tools designed to keep pace with the environment and the threat.”

I have repeatedly commented on my perception of the schism between cyber operations and MISO. While there is no denying that cyber is a significant IO vector and that Social Media is evolving to be more important than broadcast media, I have not seen any evidence that DOD is on top of this challenge.

While there is a published DOD Cyber Strategy from 2015 (see:, there doesn’t seem to be a coherent strategy for US government wide Strategic Communications or influence, nor does there seem to be a current DOD wide MISO  strategic plan, nor any documentation on spider webbing MISO and cyber influence capabilities throughout the Force.

In June 2016 DOD published the “Strategy for Operations in the Information Environment” which you can see at: However, this document is also short on specifics and of course, was published under the former Administration.

A couple of thoughts on what needs to happen.

1.     We need a coherent, US government wide strategy recognizing that influence and counter disinformation and propaganda must stretch across all Federal Departments and resources.
2.     DOD needs to emphasize the need to put MISO and Cyber Operations resources at the point of the kinetic spear. Meaning that the Marine Corps and Army Forces should be augmented with tactical Influence Operations forces.
3.     Career tracks should be established across the force to cross train selected personnel in Public Affairs, MISO and Cyber Operations. This force should also include highly qualified personnel from other Federal Departments such as Department of State, Commerce, Treasury and Energy.

Reader comment invited.

Monday, October 16, 2017

PSYOP For Good

From 11 – 15 October 2017 I served as a Public Affairs Manager for The Red Cross out of the Disaster HQ in Sonoma, CA. My time was divided into working with the media, managing the team’s efforts, drafting messages and documents along and, of course, ‘other duties as assigned’.

It turns out that PSYOP soldiers make pretty good Red Cross volunteers. The combination of ability to work under pressure, living in less than ideal circumstances and the skills of our profession make for a great combination.

I urge all of my colleagues to go to to explore opportunities to serve the community.

Some observations:
1.     Disasters bring communities together.
The outpouring of local and Event Based Volunteers (EBV) was incredible. The Red Cross received over 10,000 applications from EBV in the first week and was able to put over of 500 of them to work.

2.     Social Media Is The Jungle Drum of the 21st Century
FaceBook and Twitter were the main lines of communication. Fire Departments, Law Enforcement, traditional media, groups and individuals all took to Social Media to find out what was going out and/or to express themselves.

3.     Incorrect and negative information seems to travel faster than good news.
There is apparently a great deal of truth behind ‘misery loves company’. It must be human psychology – but bad news seems to go viral much more quickly than positive news.

4.     Broadcasters tend to take Sundays off.

5.     The public still does not understand the nature of the military
Today’s military enjoys more popularly and support than the military force has in years. Our long-term commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq have garnered a place of honor and respect for our military force in the eyes of the American Public. The California National Guard has been supporting the rescue and relief efforts in many ways from manning security posts to directing traffic.

Yet some members of the public are concerned about soldiers ‘with machine guns’ are walking around. (Of course the weapons in question are not ‘machine guns’ but M16s or M4s).

Community service is a rewarding and satisfying way for military personnel to harness their skills and experience to make their communities a better place. Consider how you might get involved.

(Photo source: The author.)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Smart Toys: New PSYOP Vector?

I’m attending, an information security conference outside of Dublin where I'll be delivering a presentation on SCADA Lessons Learned and the IoT. One of today’s speakers gave an outstanding presentation on Smart toys to include their potential vulnerabilities.

The speaker addressed classes of threats with an emphasis on nation states and sexual predators as the most likely and most dangerous. I envisioned another scenario, one where a specific geographic area, say in the Middle East, is controlled by a jihadist terrorist group. In this case it strikes me that it would be relatively easy to do some research and find toys that can be hacked to transmit jihadist propaganda.

Alternatively, we were told that some toys can transmit conversations in their presence that are in turn monitored for ‘key words’ related to sexual abuse. Jihadists could use the same technical capabilities to ferret out those who are disloyal to them and/or engaged in acts typical of infidels.

Reader comments invited and encouraged!