Monday, August 29, 2011

Hactivists and the Internet: Lessons For PSYOP/MISO

The 8/26/2011 issue of netgov ( had an article “Analysts say online ‘hactivism’ is becoming a preferred tool of protests”. The article proposes that Computer Network Attack (CNA) has emerged as a powerful force for protesters. The article talks about the protests against the San Francisco centered Bay Area Rapid Transit System which appear to be organized by the group Anonymous.

That group has innovated in its TTP (tactics, techniques and procedures) by combing CNA with on ground activity. The attack vectors are dependent on the desired result. If the group is looking to harm a target whose actions it opposes, it has turned to cyber attack as in the case of attacking Visa because it decided to stop accepting donations to Wikileaks.

Where the goal is more traditional – say blocking traffic, protesting on subway platforms or interfering with the daily commute the organization will demonstrate physically. They shield their identities in a number of ways with the Guy Fawkes mask featured in the movie “V for Vendetta” being a common means.

When dealing with urban AOs today’s MISO needs to be at least as flexible and techno savvy as our adversaries and enemies. We must appropriately employing digital influence and digital PSYACTs. Unlike non-state actors, military organizations must play by the rules. Unfortunately, in the case of the digital world the laws, rules, and doctrine have not kept pace with the battle. Computer Network Operations (CNO) are still pretty much behind the 21st century ‘green door’ and tactical MISO soldiers are not likely to have the CNO tools and authority.

MISO is often marked by innovation on the ground, SWC and the MISO chains of command need to support digital influence in a big way. Perhaps the new MISG can establish a joint ‘center of excellence’ with the other PSYOP Groups to develop doctrine, and TTP. This Digital MISO Center of Excellence should be located at the Naval Post Graduate School so that it could benefit from the latest in IO thought leadership. Fort Hunter Liggett should be considered as a proving ground where the technique could be honed in relative isolation and supported by both Active and Reserve personnel.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Dietz,

I have to disagree with you; that tactical MISO should not have CNA/CNO capability. They should access to the planning considerations associated with Digital Influence - but not access to the medium.

We have more than one Active Duty MISG (4th and 8th) - we also have a provisional MISO Command (MISOC). So, the MISOC, in your proposal, would stand up the "Joint" Center of Excellence.

However, Joint would suggest partnership with our sister services, of whom have no inherent MISO Capability. So, we would not necessarily be "Joint".

In principle, co-locating the MISO Joint Center of Excellence at the Naval Post Graduate School is a good idea; but the true propenent should be the Special Warfare Center and School, co-located with other Special Operations Forces with whom with habitually support and act alongside with. Isolation is not the key; it is in fact counterproductive.

Perhaps the discussion should be the effort to reunite the Reserve and Active Components - and ensuring that a "MISO Soldier is a MISO Soldier". The active component is responsible for ensuring that the same level of training is available for all MISO Soldiers; the Reserve Component is responsible for ensuring that all Soldiers complete that training. This model needs to mirror the same model as Special Forces, who require that all Special Forces (whether National Guard or Active) receive the same "phases of training". This equates to credibility within the force and in the interagency arena.

Is the Reserve Component prepared to stop recruiting intial entry training Soldiers; are you ready to ensure that Soldiers receive the necessary PME prior to promotion; are you prepared to bring Captains to a resident Captain's Career Course and not request waivers? These are the questions and concepts that we need to address in order to bring holistic credibility to our shared name and branch.

Once I think that happens, we as a force should then move into advanced cooperative training and education venues, but let's clean up the mess first before scattering more toys on the floor.

I apologize for the rant - but I would rather see a conceptual plan for reuniting the force as opposed to grandiose visions of "Joint Centers of Excellence" at this time.

Lawrence Dietz said...

Dear Anon,

No need to apologize, the purpose of the Blog is to encourage dialogue and I appreciate your candid feedback.

Let's face a couple of facts: MISO is broken. It has two chains of command. Optempo is so high that 'future planning' means next Tuesday.

Frankly I personally don't care if NPG or SWC carves out the resources for MISO strategic thinking -- just as long as 'someone' does.

You appear to be advocating (as do I) that all MISO be under the SOF chain of command. Amen to that brother (or sister).

As a retiree, I try to stimulate thought and dialogue. Thanks again for your input!


Anonymous said...

Mr. Dietz,

I am not advocating for or against reuniting the Reserve and Active Component under one SOF umbrella. I am advocating for equality of training.

If Reserve MISO is to fall under the SOF Umbrella, then the Soldiers need to attend Assessment and Selection, attend Language Training, and the full Qualification Course. Initial Entry Training needs to be eliminated - at the Reserve Commands need to end the waiver for the Captain's Career Course of Officers.

MISO is broke; but the tools are in place to fix it. It takes the commitment of leadership to enforce it - and the discipline of Soldiers to complete the requirements.

You are absolutely correct in your 9/11 Post that our Soldiers perform with exemplary outcomes; I witness it everyday.

I wholeheartedly understand the OPTEMPO - but I opine if Soldiers can go on a deployment - they can also go to PME and not request a waiver.

We are finally getting the recognition that we need. But, before we start thinking about the advanced training - let's focus on getting back to basics and train our Soldiers correctly.

Lawrence Dietz said...


I concur that all MISO personnel must meet the same standards and be able to perform equally on the job.

How they get there doesn't have to be the same. For example to be an attorney you have to pass the Bar Exam. You can go to school full time during the day or part time evenings. How you get there doesn't matter.

By their nature the AC and the RC are different. Since RC personnel have to balance a civilian career, they may not be available for long (greater than three weeks) periods of time. This means active duty training needs to be in bite size pieces and creative use of distance learning is a must.

I'm not familiar with the situation surrounding the CPT's course, so I won't comment on that.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Dietz,

Your comparison of an attorney to a Special Operations Force is moot.

I understand the need to balance civilian career, family life, and military options - but our brother in the 19th and 20th Special Forces Groups complete the entire training regimen, to include Assessment and Selection, language, MOS Specific training, and Robin Sage.

These are the gates associated with being part of ARSOF. If the reunification is to come - then the requirements must be met. This is a personal choice that must be made by all Soldiers who desire to join the MISO Community.

I agree with you that it might take time to accomplish the goal of becoming MISO. However, the OPTEMPO you so reference also requires the juggling of those factors.

You also advocate that RC needs advanced training - that comes with the investment in the current training regimen. You state the the nature of RC and AC are different, but want the same type of training. The employment of AC and RC MISO in doctrinally different - with RC being traditionally tactical.

The training regimen is 49 weeks in length to produce a MISO Soldier; deployment mobilizations are longer than for RC components.

It can be done - leadership just has to draw the line and accept responsibility for the requirement.

In doing so - we create credibility and flexibility within the force - and tear down the walls of division that have been in the making for years.

Anonymous said...

Rumor on the street is that SEC Army approved the memo to bring RC MISO back under SOF, but ASD/SOLIC recently non-concurred.

Lawrence Dietz said...


I do not agree that every ARSOF soldier needs to go through the same training as SF. In my opinion, MISO skills do not require the same depth of training as SF skills.

Furthermore, I believe that many MISO skills have civilian counter parts and lend themselves to at least be partially taught using distance learning.

The doctrinal difference you talk about between RC and AC is a relatively new phenomena and is frankly a non-starter. When a MISO team shows up they need to be able to do their job - claiming that ACs only support SF and RCs only support the "Big Army" is ludicrous.

However, all ARSOF soldiers need to meet the same physical fitness and marksmanship standards.

Anonymous said...


I think the point was missed; I am not advocating that MISO Forces go through the same training as Special Forces.

I am advocating that all MISO Forces adopt the similar methodology employed by the Special Forces Qualification Course.

Similiar to your attorney argument, it should not matter how long it takes them to get there - but they have to complete all the training.

Special Forces did away with the "correspondence course" years ago - it was not effective and skills atrophied.

One could argue that Special Forces have civilian counterparts, too.

However - one cannot wish away the benefits of attending the resident course. The networking one gains, the insight to each other's backgrounds builds an effective force.

I concur that all ARSOF Soldiers need to maintain the highest standards in physical fitness - and military bearing. Credibility begins with initial impressions.

As an AC MISO Soldier, I have supported SOF, "Big Army", Interagency, and Joint elements. I don't care who I support - I am there to do the job. But, I opine, that AC MISO is better postured to support SOF.

Furthermore, as a former Commander - I sure as hell valued resident education over Distance Learning - there are many more benefits than just the initial "book learning" associated with it.

However - it seems that the decision has been made already, and my diatribe has been for naught.

Jimbo said...

Sir, I vehemently disagree with your comment that "MISO skills do not require the same depth of training as SF skills." MISO personnel do not require the same set of skills as SF, but to imply MISO personnel do not need to be as highly trained in their area of expertise as SF are in theirs is flat out wrong.

Comments like yours--especially when made by MISO personnel--serve to perpetuate the perception that MISO is second-class SOF. More importantly, the perception acts as an impediment against the vital need for our community to seek continual improvement. Ours is not a field where shortchanging learning, in either depth or currency, is acceptable.

If you feel our training is inferior to SF, the first response must not be "ok;" it must be "hell no!"

Lawrence Dietz said...

There are many benefits from resident courses as you point out and I would agree that initial training and perhaps branch transfer should involve more than two weeks in residence. However, I don’t think it is practical for RC personnel to spend as much time at one chunk in training as RC personnel.
As for civilian counter parts to SF – I’m afraid I can’t buy that. SF involves extensive field craft as well as trade craft. MISO/PSYOP skills are commonly used in various aspects of marketing and sales as well as in government relations.
I would also agree that AC may be better positioned to support SOF, but the fact of the matter is that PSYOP soldiers must be able to function in either environment regardless of their component.

Lawrence Dietz said...

I’m not saying that MISO personnel are not highly trained. What I am saying this that the training requirements for SF are different and in many cases more intensive. The field craft aspects and the training needed to develop the mental acuity and self-sufficiency required of SF not to mention airborne, and other advanced training are not requirements for MISO. While it would be nice to have MISO personnel highly competent in field craft, it is not mandatory.
Your statement about ‘short changing learning’ is certainly right on point, but it doesn’t mean that MISO personnel require the same time and training as SF personnel.
As for second class – SOF is a team, everyone on the team has different roles and the team cannot function unless all the players are functioning at the top of their game.

Anonymous said...

Noone is advocating "fieldcraft" as a requirement for MISO Skills; within MISO we want to complement our SOF brothers, not replicate them.

National Guard Special Forces Soldiers go through all resident phases of training in order to wear a Green Beret and get their "Long Tab". Like the 2nd and 7th Groups - they are civilians, too - "with complementary skills" in their chosen field. They all go to Selection, then the required Qualification Courses to receive their MOS.

MISO is not marketing – some of the principles are similar – but MISO seeks to influence, while Marketing seeks to convince. There are no “market shares” in MISO, and no tangible product to sell. I personally think that we have “oversold” our capability in the marketing arena to our own demise.

In reference to your "not buying the civilian counterparts" in SF - they would beg to differ, as do I:
18A - Special Forces Officer - Company Middle Management, Planner, Strategist, Business developer

180A - Special Forces Warrant Officer - Archivist, Trend analysis, Data collection, Market Analyst

18B - Special Forces Weapons Sergeant - Federal Police, FBI, ATF, SWAT team member, Civilian Marksmanship Instructor

18C - Special Forces Engineer Sergeant - Construction Foreman, Building inspector, Electrician, Plumber

18D - Special Forces Medical Sergeant - Physician’s Assistant, Emergency Medical Technician, Pharmacist, Triage Nurse

18E – Special Forces Communication Sergeant – Telecommunications industry, Network installation and Management, IT Repair, Satellite Communications and Microwave Communications industry.

This is simply scratching the surface – but the bottom line is that these Soldiers are SOF, highly trained alongside their AC brothers, and have credibility within their career field.
Excuses that “shortcuts” can be made based on civilian competencies and that active duty for training must be taken in “small bites” do not hold water – and should no longer be allowed to excuse Soldiers from receiving the holistic training available.

In closing – if you want to be Army Special Operations – you have to be willing to put the time in. You have to be willing to accept that every Soldier must complete the training required – starting with Assessment and Selection – where every Soldier meets the criteria to master the training concepts presented. To no longer do so – it is at the detriment of the force.

As a former Group Commander, and as the former Honorary Regimental Commander – I would hope that you would be advocating for the health of the force – which is predicated on credibility and capability – as opposed to allowing self-imposed obstacles to stand in our collective way.

Lawrence Dietz said...


OK - You have made a very convincing argument vis a vis the National Guard, which certainly has the same issues/constraints as the RC.

While I don't quite buy all of your civilian counter part/SF matches, you have made your point.

However, in my view employing the art/science of marketing/sales is what we do. We aren't selling tooth paste or anti-virus software; but we are trying to influence people to do or not do something. Having worked in both worlds, the similarities are far greater than the differences.

As for time commitment, I must concede if the NG can do it then the RC ought to be able to as well.

For the record, I've never been a Group CDR. Deputy CDR of a PSYOP Task Force, but not a Group CDR.

Thanks for responding and engaging!


Voodoo said...

This dialogue is fantastic. I have a few comments:

1) Getting rid of IET is a bad idea. Starting a 37X-ray program is a good idea. SWC should develop a pipeline so that soldiers, like myself, who enlisted wanting to be a PSYOP soldier have that opportunity.

2) The NG SF analogy is perfect. Just as one can enlist into 19th Group, one should be able to enlist into 7th POG. The NG SF bubbas have a lot of challenges, and the brass seems to want to sideline them these days, despite their phenomenal record in the GWOT.

3) SWCS could overcome much of the language requirement problems by creating a refresher course for soldiers who have a background in a language, but are not conversational in it.

4) Civil Affairs, PSYOP, and SF, are all greatly benefited by civilian experience. So much so that back in the 1990's Special Warfare Magazine did an entire issue devoted to the reserve side of the house.

5) Somehow reserve intelligence units, with their robust coursework (10 level, 20 level, and 30 level courses, SOC, ASOC, etc) manage to keep their active and reserve soldiers on the same sheet of music, going to the same courses - why can't we?

6) Mr. Dietz, I'm afraid your strategic level commander's thinking has once again led you astray. Just as you failed to understand what a TPT could offer in a LIC firefight a few posts ago, you have illustrated one of the key problems in PSYOP today - our leadership thinks PSYOP and marketing are the same thing. Sorry, they aren't. Marketing is one subset of PSYOP - a single tool in what should be a broad arsenal. If you look at the PSYWAR efforts of WW2, Vietnam, and our enemies, like China (Decoding the Virtual Dragon is a book I highly recommend), this will become abundantly clear. Western marketing techniques have failed to alter behaviors (other than consumer behavior) here at home - even with GENIUS marketing campaigns, such as 'your brain on drugs'. Changing and manipulating human behavior - group behaviors, requires identifying vulnerabilities, and then applying or relieving pressure on those vulnerabilities in order to create a desired *behavioral* change.

I hate to say it - but marketing is easy - psychology, sociology, anthropology, area studies - these fields require enormous academic devotion, and have long been the heart and soul of our craft. Which incidentally does in fact require a significant degree of its own trade craft. Just ask the practitioners over at Langley.

It seems to me that this absurd notion that simply informing a population is equivalent to influencing them, and that all PSYOP soldiers need to do is communicate the truth IOT secure a desired behavior change, that led to the adoption of "Military Information" as an acceptable moniker, and I am afraid that unless radical changes are made very rapidly, America will leave the psychological warfare front entirely unmanned. And in the War on Terror, the psychological front is the most important.

Lawrence Dietz said...

@Voodoo - I concur with every thing you have said. I've been called worse than a CDR with a strategic view! I wonder why we have not heard from very many senior NCOs in this discussion.

Voodoo said...

There's absolutely nothing wrong with having a strategic commander's thinking. Its absolutely necessary for crafting strategy. The problem is that throughout the Army, but particularly in PSYOP, officers with degrees in Marketing and Advertising have been shaping the craft, while NCO's with BAs, MAs, and even PhDs, in social sciences, have been brushed aside.

Unfortunately, far too many PSYOP NCO's simply don't understand their jobs, in the doctrine or out of it. This is particularly true on the RC side of the house, because reclass (and even AIT) NCO's were forced to cut weeks off the schedule and dumb down the classes tremendously.

PSYOP soldiers used to be of the *highest* caliber. Now we have retarded Team Chiefs who think trying to convert rural Kandahari Pashtouns to Christianity is good PSYOP. I mean, we have some real idiots in our midst.

I think the reason we're not hearing from senior NCOs here is that honestly, throughout the regiment, soldiers just don't care anymore. Morale is low, very low, and good PSYOP soldiers have been peeled off into MI Warrant slots, or just left the uniform altogether. I know of several AD E4/5's who were bright, motivated, and eager, who have all left to either go SF, or can't wait to leave the Army entirely.

I love PSYOP, and it pains me to watch it wither away and die.

Anonymous said...

I just came from the MISO Selection and Assestment course. I recommend all MISO Soldiers to attend. It is very phisically demanding. This is coming from an Airborne Infantry Soldier with a Ranger tab.