Tuesday, August 3, 2010

USAID to Increase Media Efforts in Afghanistan – Confusion About Roles and Names Continues

The Washington Post is often considered a flashlight into the darkness of government operations. Based in DC their strong suit ought to be government related stores just as the LA Times focuses on Entertainment and the San Jose Mercury News Silicon Valley. Having said that, the August 3, 2010 article, “USAID looks to expand its media-building efforts in Afghanistan” by Walter Pincus is ripe with confusion as to names, functions and responsibilities. (See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/02/AR2010080204788.html).

A quote from the article goes like this: “A Pentagon official recently provided an example related to the Defense Department budget next year. It calls for spending $180 million on "psychological operations" in Afghanistan and Iraq, a category once known as strategic communications.”Apparently the name change from PSYOP to MISO hasn’t made it all the way over to the Post and Mr. Pincus hasn’t the slightest idea of what Strategic Communications really is.

Pincus goes on to give a definition without a source and claims that these Pentagon sponsored activities “are almost all run by contractors”. Apparently the concept of PSYOP military forces has eluded him as well.

A free and influential media is an important element in democracies especially where the citizenry has access to the media and the ability to understand it. The USAID program would appear to be geared to urban based media in the larger cities. Notwithstanding the fact that population growth is expected to be the greatest in urban areas (see http://www.unhabitat.org/content.asp?typeid=19&catid=245&cid=362) I question whether this is the best use of these funds at this time.

It is also abundantly clear that the PSYOP name change is not the biggest challenge we face in the community. The general lack of awareness of the critical work performed by PSYOP Groups coupled with a muddled view of government influence operations in general are our biggest concerns.

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