Tuesday, May 18, 2010

PSYOP and the New NATO Strategy

On May 17, 2010 NATO released the report of a panel of experts containing recommendations for a new strategic approach by the organization. (see http://www.nato.int/nato_static/assets/pdf/pdf_2010_05/20100517_100517_expertsreport.pdf)

I don’t suspect many of my loyal readers will peruse the document. For those of us who have served in NATO organizations, we recognize that there is a level of diplomacy among senior NATO civilians and commanders that requires a high degree of sensitivity and thus far has never called for much urgency.
In the following paragraphs I will provide a glimpse into the 58 page document.

Here’s the BLUF (Bottom Line UP Front)
PSYOP will be needed to deal with the spectrum of threats facing NATO. The US has the opportunity of being the lead dog by demonstrating our expertise and TTP (tactics, techniques and procedures). US PSYOP doctrine and TTP could be the standard for NATO if the USG is willing to make the commitment in terms of personnel and funding.

US training and doctrine could provide a jump start to the nascent ‘new’ NATO. Failure to engage will leave a vacuum that will either be filled by another nation or worse left unfilled resulting in disastrous consequences in NATO’s future conflicts.

The introduction to the 2010 Strategic Concept contains two key points in my opinion, the first of which is a new perspective on the NATO mission:
“Between now and 2020, it (NATO) will be tested by the emergence of new dangers, the many-sided demands of complex operations, and the challenge of organising itself efficiently in an era where rapid responses are vital, versatility critical, and resources tight. NATO” (Page 5)

The second stated point is that NATO has not done a very good job of building value in the minds of the citizens and politicians of NATO countries and notwithstanding its many accomplishments “could fail to retain the public backing and financial support it must have to perform critical tasks well.”

Strangely enough, at least to me, while there is ample mention of missiles and cyber threats, there is scant mention of the need to influence populations in areas where NATO forces find themselves. The strategy acknowledges that there are several factors “that magnify uncertainty”:

• The proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction;
• The ambitions of international terrorist groups;
• The persistence of corrosive regional, national, ethnic, and religious rivalries;
• The world’s increased reliance on potentially vulnerable information systems;
• The competition for petroleum and other strategic resources (thereby highlighting the importance of maritime security);
• Demographic changes that could aggravate such global problems as poverty, hunger, illegal immigration, and pandemic disease; and
• The accumulating consequences of environmental degradation, including climate change.

Conclusions cited strikes by international terrorist groups and cyber assaults as key threats and point out that the organization must be able to make decisions rapidly and integrate help from countries and organizations outside NATO to deal with these complex threats. Partnership management was elevated to one of the 4 core NATO tasks highlighted by the 2010 Strategic Concept.

Neither PSYOP nor Information Operations were mentioned specifically. In fact nor was Strategic Communications. With regard to military missions, the document pointed out that military missions complement the core tasks and will include:
• Cooperate with partners and civilian institutions to protect the treaty area against a full range of unconventional security challenges.
• Deploy and sustain expeditionary capabilities for military operations beyond the treaty area when required to prevent an attack on the treaty area or to protect the legal rights and other vital interests of Alliance members.
• Help to shape a more stable and peaceful international security environment by enhancing partner interoperability, providing military and police training, coordinating military assistance, and cooperating with the governments of key countries.

Two other comments were worthy of note: NATO Special Operations should be elevated to a full component command and that “NATO should encourage the further evolution and coordination of national specialisation and niche capabilities”.

Civil Military Operations (CMO) came in for some special attention noting that these are key to complex operations and that civilian capabilities will have to be integrated into a range of operations especially where it is necessary to work with local authorities and combat forces for limited timeframes to provide security and needed public services.


Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for a little over a year, and I've notices a theme in the strategic planning or not planning of PSYOP during that time from you.
I'm a reserve psychological operator, but a career social scientist. I've noticed that since WWII there seems to be a correlation between a states', or non-state actors', ability or willingness to use force and their willingness to use psyop. I haven't seen any studies done on the subject, but it may be as simple as the fact that we have military superiority, and don't seem to be shy about using it. Our enemies on the other hand are outgunned, so using propaganda and psyop is a much more appealing endeavor. They have been very successful in leveraging the social capital of various audiences through the use of the internet and compelling messages.
Perhaps if a commander had fewer kinetic options at his disposal, he would be more open to psyop. Investigating this would we simply a matter of coding for things like military tech., size, budget, and use of kinetic ops, with the reliance and use of psyop in a multiple regression model.

Lawrence Dietz said...

Thanks for the comment. Personally, I think a Commander should have as many options as possible. The issue is not so much the number of kinetic options but the thought process of the Commanders.

Most Commanders think kinetic - they don't consider other options. Also the nature of the beast is that PSYOP is not organic to every unit so that having the PSYOP option is not available.

Perhaps integrating PSYOP and influence training at Combat Arms schools for officers and NCOs would bring some PSYOP skills down to the squad and offer them the kind of non-lethal options that military police have to think about in crowd control.