Wednesday, August 26, 2009

PSYOP for the Duration?

When you entered the military in World War II, you entered it “for the duration" meaning until it was over. General Petraeus appears to have this kind of dedication in mind as plans were announced on August 24, 2009 in the Washington post to open the Center for Afghanistan Pakistan Excellence to “train military officers, cover agents and analysts who agree to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan for up to a decade” ( Arab News published an article derived from the Post Article at:

The center’s director, Derek Harvey a former Colonel who served with Petraeus in Iraq was described more as a homicide detective with an obsession for employing many sources to come up with a reasoned analysis. He described his concern with current intelligence methods to the Post:
"We have tended to rely too much on intelligence sources and not integrating fully what is coming from provincial reconstruction teams, civil-affairs officers, commanders and operators on the ground that are interacting with the population and who understand the population and can actually communicate what is going on in the street," he said. "If you only rely on the intelligence reporting, you can get a skewed picture of the situation."

To ferret out the possible implication to PSYOP its necessary to contemplate a few other statements:
1. Mr. Harvey said the new center would focus on integrating all sources of information to develop strategic products for both war fighters and decision makers in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
2. Asked whether the new training commitments suggest a long-term military presence in Afghanistan, Mr. Harvey said those decisions are above his pay grade. But he said, "Even if we downsize, we are still going to have investments in South Asia."

PSYOP and intelligence are inter-related. PSYOP like any marketing campaign needs to blueprint the prospect, that is understand what makes the prospect tick. By understanding the prospect it is possible to construct a campaign to achieve optimal results. Military intelligence work products such as those generated by the new Center will be a critical source of information for PSYOPers.

“Decision makers” in the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan must include those responsible for information engagement to include Department of State, Military PAO and PSYOP as well as warfighting Commanders. It makes a great deal of sense to have a PSYOP cell within the new center, one that could function as a ‘market research’ and propaganda analysis source for PSYOP efforts.
It is therefore no great leap of faith to conclude that part of the Center’s sphere of influence will include information operations especially PSYOP. Given that the center will have the responsibility, where will it get its PSYOP people?

The PSYOP community is challenged by today’s OpTempo. Does it make sense to divert existing personnel to the Center for the required 5 years? If so, where would they come from? PSYOP analysts are a small group as it is. They specialize by area already. Is there something to be gained by moving a current PSYOP analyst from Bragg or Tampa to the new Center or does it make more sense to recruit new analytical horsepower from the pool of military and civilians who have already served in the theater?
If people are pulled out of their mainstream career path, how ill 5 years ‘out of the loop’ affect their chances for career advancement?

My personal feeling is that a hybrid approach would work the best. Rotate a current senior PSYOP analyst through the Center on one year tours and recruit new PSYOP analytical talent to fill out the roster. This would provide a knowledgeable mentor force for the Center and would increase the overall supply of PSYOP analysts who can then move from the Center to other PSYOP or IO roles.

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