Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Smart Power and PSYOP

Senator Hilary Clinton’s confirmation hearing included the call for the use of “smart power”. ( (Photo courtesy of the Washington Times)

While the hearing was short on facts, on Tuesday Senator Clinton said: “"We are not taking any option off the table at all, but we will pursue a new, perhaps different approach that will become a cornerstone of what the Obama administration believes is an attitude toward engagement that might bear fruit,"

This statement seems to be in line with a previous statement made by Senator Obama in a Senate speech on March 6, 2007: “Win the Battle of Ideas: Defeat al Qaeda in the battle of ideas by returning to an American foreign policy consistent with America's traditional values, and work with moderates within the Islamic world to counter al Qaeda propaganda. Establish a $2 billion Global Education Fund to work to eliminate the global education deficit and offer an alternative to extremist schools.” (Source: www.

Today’s post will speculate on what all this is likely to mean for PSYOP. But first, let’s recap a few things:

1. Senator Clinton comes to her new job with the experience of her Senate years, her exposure to the world stage as First Lady and of course with former President Bill Clinton. Her new boss comes to his new job with a sharp intellect, a solid knowledge of Constitutional Law, a feeling of mandate to implement change and an apparently keen sense of timing and respect for the need of evolutionary versus revolutionary change.

2. The Department of State (DOS) appears to have had its own challenges over the past years as the brouhaha over the inability to get enough Foreign Services Officers to deploy to combat zones has shown.

3. The Economy is putting pressure on the USG to trim its expenditures. History has shown that even Presidential Cabinets with the best of intentions often have conflict over how funding and resources should be allocated.

4. President Clinton and the military did not enjoy a very cordial working relationship.

5. Senator Obama appears to have started his military relationship off on the right foot and has undoubtedly won points by keeping SecDef Gates and Admiral Mullen in their positions in order to help insure a smooth transition from wartime administration to another.

6. No single point of contact really exists for DOD that can deal with issues from the strategic to the tactical.

7. Army PSYOP forces have been divided into regular and ‘special’. Regular supports conventional forces AKA ”the Big Army” and 4th POG supports Special Operations.

8. USSOCOM engages in Strategic Global PSYOP, 4th POG engages in global ‘special’ PSYOP.
9. Air Force and Navy have their own PSYOP capabilities and doctrine while the Army and the Marines share doctrine.

10. IO’s star seems to be descending and PAO continues to reign supreme and independent.

So – what does this all mean.

Need For Greater Coordination and DOS Imprinting

It is likely that the Obama administration, led by Secretary of State Clinton, would increase the resourcing for Public Diplomacy. The will likely lead to more strategic level work since that can be accomplished from the safety of Washington, DC.

An increase of strategic public diplomacy and the communications that go with it will require enhanced interaction between DOD and DOS. A suggestion to elevate tha management of the administration’s programs for both departments might be the establishment of key new roles at major embassies. SES-1 or 06 level individuals will be the DOS focal point for all in country activity to include DOD. These new focal points should also be empowered to manage PAO activities and should be DOS personnel or DOD personnel detailed to DOS with a rating chain solely within the DOS.

Furthermore, there needs to be a greater level of cooperation between SOCOM and State beyond today’s manning level to the point perhaps a limited number of SOCOM personnel could be housed in DOS offices to be in a better position to work with DOS personnel on formulating strategic and country plans and to spider web Executive Branch guidance through the PSYOP and IO chain of Command. SOCOM will also bear the responsibility of insuring that the organizations providing PSYOP support to Conventional Forces are fully tuned into to what is happening at the strategic level and that media intelligence, messaging, selected products and other tools/information is accessible to them.

At the tactical level DOD will still be bear the brunt of information engagement because they have the resources to provide their own security. DOD should work with DOS to insure interoperability of PSYOP/Public Diplomacy messages and products. Tactical PSYOP is likely to be stretched thinner than it is today as the number of places where their services are required will increase over time. While the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan may eventually diminish in scope, it is clear that other situations will arise to take their place.

Future conflicts may take the tribal model found in Afghanistan or the scattered urban model of Iraq or perhaps the super city battle grounds of the worlds’ most populous cities. The recent terrorist incident in Mumbai may be a precursor to similar actions in Jakarta, Lagos, Dhaka (Bangladesh), Cairo or Karachi or flair ups in Somalia.
Tactical PSYOP forces will continue to be stretched so that the Obama administration will need to be sensitive to ways and means of making the force more efficient without breaking it. As an example, it would be prudent to determine if the bifurcation of Army PSYOP Forces into separate 4 star commands makes sense in light of the anticipated threats and deployments.

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