Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NATO and PAO: PSYOP Conundrums

The PSYOP Association ( publishes a very useful e-mail publication called FrontPost. The publication reflects key events, trends and news in the PSYOP community worldwide and is a tremendous resource for PSYOP professionals.

Monday’s edition featured two articles dealing with PSYOP, PAO and IO in Afghanistan. The first talked about an organizational change implemented by an American BG and the second article: “NATO scraps press, psy ops merger in Afghanistan” ( proclaimed its undoing.

Two aspects of the articles are worthy of discussion: NATO rules and the tacit assumption that PAO is always snow pure while PSYOP is always ‘propaganda’.
If there are any lessons that the USG should have learned by now is that going to war alone is not a good thing and that terrorists are far more adept at information engagement than we are.

NATO is a prime alliance for the USG. However, having served at the NATO Stabilization Force (SFOR) HQ in Sarajevo, I can tell you that it is a strange sociological beast. NATO organizations are cobble together based on nationalities and pay grades and often have the intrigue of a European Royal Court in the Middle Ages. Officers at the most senior levels within a NATO HQ wear two hats: NATO Officer and National Officer. Their Officer Efficiency Reports (OERs) are written by senior officers of their own nation and their generally unstated duty is to champion the priorities and causes of their nation – all within the bounds of the NATO organization.

While an officer may be in Command, he/she must do so within the NATO rules and rituals. It is clear to me that US doctrine needs to dovetail with NATO doctrine. This effort in turn should take two different paths. On the one hand US forces should insure that their operations are IAW NATO tactics, techniques and procedures and on the other, US personnel assigned to NATO should continually strive to modernize NATO TTP so that they will optimize operations in the 21st century regardless of AO. Furthermore, these TTP should encompass actions against terrorists and insurgents. Once TTP are adopted by NATO, member nations and those aspiring to membership will train and ultimately fight employing them.

Training as you fight takes on a new meaning – working in tandem with allies under common rules and TTP. This type of seamless integration would go a long way towards increasing the effects of allied operations and reduce the seeming advantage now enjoyed by our terrorist enemies.

The second aspect of the article implying that all PAO efforts are true and pure while PSYOP is propaganda is a bunch of crap! The quote in the article appears below:
“But that order went against policy agreed by the 26 nations within NATO which recognises there is an inherent clash of interests between its public affairs offices, whose job it is to issue press releases and answer media questions, and that of Information Operations and Psy Ops.
Information Operations advises on information designed to affect the will of the enemy, while Psy Ops includes so-called "black operations", or outright deception.”

PAO remains a powerful lobby and has succeeded at elevating itself above both PSYOP and IO. This exalted position exists in spite of the fact that PAO will spin their releases and messages in the way that they see fit. The fact of the matter is that everyone works for the CDR and the CDR needs to streamline his/her information engagement forces so as to get the biggest bang for the buck and to be able to respond quickly and forcefully to deny the information advantage to the enemy. Splitting the forces goes against both the principles of warfare and marketing.

The time has come for DoD to convene a small task force to address the notion of information engagement across the USG and to recommend to the new President how to gain and maintain the information upper hand in the war against terrorism.


Anonymous said...

While we psyopers object to the way our craft is misunderstood in public (esp given that, ironically, NATO PSYOPS is always attributable and therefore has a certain policy-driven whiteness) bear in mind that the characterization was made by the journalist, not the PAO. Ultimately we PSYOPers at NATO are happy with the PA policy restriction, as it may have prevented the dismantling of CJPOTF and its conversion to a staff element instead of an operational unit. The only straw our policy offered was a vague comment about access to the commander. We contine to watch as it evolves.

Lawrence Dietz said...

While the journalist made the characterization, the result was that the GO tackling the mission was unable to organize in the way he thought was best.

Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Presented for your perusal:

Public Affairs and Information Operations

Lawrence Dietz said...

A posting worth taking a look at.