On Thursday, 17 May 2012 USA Today reported that “House panel calls for serious cuts to propaganda spending” (See: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2012-05-17/congress-information-operations-funds/55045982/1).
The article points out:
1. MISO programs are “essentially marketing efforts aimed at persuading foreign audiences to support U.S. interest, though Pentagon officials acknowledge that little proof exists about their effectiveness.”
2. Programs are allegedly poorly tracked (although this is improving).
3. U.S. sponsorship of messages is often hidden because of the U.S.’s lack of credibility in the region.
4. The Pentagon IG is investigating Leonie Industries the principal contractor for the MISO program.
5. There are several Congressmen, Rep Hank Johnson (D GA) and Norm Dicks (D WA) who are active in criticizing the program and seeking to block additional funding for ‘propaganda efforts’.
What does all this mean to us in the Community?
First of all it’s clear that ‘we’ have done a terrible job helping Congress and other elected officials understand what we do. For a craft that prides itself on communication, this is a sad state of affairs. Of course I realize that serving military personnel are limited in what they can do or say, however, the Army maintains a Congressional LNO (http://ocll.hqda.pentagon.mil/) which is tasked with this responsibility.
Perhaps LTG Mullholland should pick up the phone and have a serious chat with the GO in charge to insure that the proper information is flowing to Congress. It would also be appropriate for non-serving Community members to engage their elected representative as I’ve advocated previously. (Photo source: http://www.soc.mil/rv4_images/USASOC%20-%20LTG%20Mulholland,%20John%20%28Class%20A_large%29.jpg)
However, I’m afraid there is no substitute for being there. The action is in DC and that’s where the education campaign needs to be centered.
Stepping down off the soap box – as an attorney I’ve learned that “truth is the absolute defense” if you can prove it of course. No doubt MISO efforts have generated some success in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Surely not at the level of the Battle of Midway, but some tangible success that can be documented or perhaps shared via video.
I feel it would be appropriate for the Group CDR to work together to produce a YouTube Video that shows how, why and where MISO has worked. This video could form the basis to help educate elected officials and others.
In parallel, ‘we’ need to be developing metrics of effectiveness that can help document our successes and convince our customers and funders that we know what the heck we are doing.