Wednesday, February 6, 2008

PSYOP Implications of the DNI Estimate

The unclassified version of the Annual Threat Assessment of the Director of National Intelligence for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was released on 5 February. It can be downloaded from:

In addition to threats heightened as a result of globalization such as vulnerability to hostile cyber actions, rising food prices, energy issues, the Director focused on several issues:

“The continuing global terrorist threat, but also the setbacks the violent extremist networks are experiencing; The significant gains in Iraqi security since this time last year and the developing political and economic improvements;
and the continuing challenges facing us in Afghanistan and in
Pakistan, where many of our most important interests

From a PSYOP perspective there are several high level take away points:
The OpTempo of tactical PSYOP will not abate. Further, if US troops are deployed in support of UN, NATO or other actions in Africa or elsewhere, the demand for PSYOP support to these operations will require tactical PSYOP and influence operations planning in unfamiliar settings with unfamiliar media landscapes. This planning will undoubtedly be multi-national and allies should be sought who can bring knowledge of the AO and the culture/language with them.

The need for detailed, highly localized media maps will be critical. Gathering reliable comparative data on media in these locations will require highly trusted and competent local personnel who can be properly vetted quickly.

There is a pressing need for more capabilities to bring PSYOP messages into denied areas. It would appear that the Pakistan border area would be a case in point. The Director indicated that al-Qa’ida has been able to establish a center of gravity in this area which is acting as an operational hub to support decentralized decision making and to coordinate the organizations international operations. A combination of high tech (TV, Internet) and low tech (PSY Acts, leaflets, etc.) media should be employed where possible. Attention should be given to using the enemy’s own communications channels for PSYOP purposes.

Traditional borders are disappearing. Al-Qa’ida has strengthened its ability to recruit “Westerners” and is actively employing the Internet as a recruiting, communications and marketing tool. These points seem to reiterate much of what recent posts have called for in terms of more sophisticated Internet capabilities.
There are some inklings that campaigns centered on deputy al-Qa’ida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has been criticized by supporters for perceived contradictions in his public statements about HAMAS and softness toward Iran and the Shia.

There should also be some analysis to determine the rationale for the recent solicitation of questions for al-Qa’ida leadership and their subsequent non-response.

For its part, the PSYOP school house should be broadening its curriculum to insure that the widest range of PSYOP media are covered and that tactical PSYOP soldiers are given fundamentals of how integrate high tech and low tech PSYOP in cohesion. Training should be offered in how to research local media and how tor recruit trusted organizations and individuals to assist. Candidates include academics and business leaders. Furthermore, an on-line resource should be created that provides access to cultural, linguistic and other materials that would be useful.

The latest Estimate is another proof point for the strong case to increase PSYOP resources.

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