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A Blog on Understanding, Informing, Empowering, and Influencing Global Publics, published by Matt Armstrong

The Second Battle of Hastings

By Cliff W. Gilmore

Don't cross the streams!Michael Hastings’ most recent attempt to unseat a U.S. general alleges members of the military illegally used Information Operations (IO) and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) activities to shape the perceptions of elected U.S. officials and senior military leaders. Many respondents quickly addressed a need to clarify lines between various communication activities including Information Operations, Psychological Operations (recently re-named Military Information Support Operations or MISO), Public Affairs (PA) and Strategic Communication (SC). Amidst the resulting smoke and fury both Hastings and his detractors are overlooking a greater underlying problem: Many in the military continue to cling with parochial vigor to self-imposed labels – and the anachronistic paradigms they represent – that defy the very nature of a rapidly evolving communication environment.

The allegations highlight two false assumptions that guide the U.S. military’s approach to communication in an environment defined not by the volume and control of information but by the speed and ease with which people today communicate with one another. This article identifies these assumptions and recommends several actions to avoid yet another Battle of Hastings by eliminating existing stovepipes rather than strengthening them. The analysis presented here is grounded in two key established Truths.

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Holmes spotlights doctrinal delineation of IO and PA

The majority of the discussion and concern created by the Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings centered on statements by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Holmes that he was illegally tasked. I discuss the real issue exposed by this and the previous article by Hastings on General Stanley McChrystal of doctrinal and structural problems in the U.S. military in an article at ForeignPolicy.com entitled “Mind Games.”

On his Facebook page, Holmes links to a MountainRunner post on a roundtable discussion with Lieutenant General William Caldwell, IV, until recently Holmes’s commanding officer and then Commanding General of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth. The topic was the just-released revision to FM 3-0, the Operations manual for the Army, and the new attention to information activities.

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Holmes, Caldwell, Psy-Ops and the Smith-Mundt Act

imageThe recent Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings has brought to the surface a debate over the difference between “inform,” “influence” and the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. In his article “”Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators,” Hastings relies heavily – if not entirely – on the statements by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Holmes concerned over his orders while at the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan.

As I noted in my recent article “Mind Games: Why Rolling Stone’s article on the military’s domestic psy-ops scandal gets it so wrong” (No, I did not come up with either the title or imagesubtitle), what “Another Runaway General” highlights is the deficit in the training, definition, and tactics, techniques and procedures of the informational functional areas in the military. In other words, who does what and why continues to be a confusing mess within the Defense Department. The result is continued confusion and stereotyping both inside and outside the military on the roles, capabilities and expectations that create headlines like “Another Runaway General.”

“Another Runaway General” also highlights, if briefly, the false yet prevalent view of the Smith-Mundt Act. I want to thank World Politics Review for making my article on Smith-Mundt, “Reforming Smith-Mundt: Making American Public Diplomacy Safe for Americans,” available outside of their paywall to support the “Mind Games” article.

This post adds additional commentary that could not fit into the ForeignPolicy.com “Mind Games” article.

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Revising Information Operations Policy at the Department of Defense

SCIO_25Jan11.PNGBy Michael Clauser

On January 25, 2011, Secretary Gates signed a memorandum (hereafter 1/25/11 memo) entitled “Strategic Communication and Information Operations in the DoD.”  The memo signals that the Pentagon’s “E Ring” is finally emphasizing the need for reform of interagency strategic communication (SC) and military information operations (IO). It’s frustrating that after eight years of irregular warfare in southwest Asia, it took an Act of Congress (literally) to sharpen the minds and pencils of the Pentagon to take the problems.  And now, Secretary Gates’ memo claims credit when it shouldn’t, takes for granted one of its most controversial statements, plays-up one minor bureaucratic re-organization while glossing over the disestablishment of a vital SC and IO problem-solving office, and most concerning may be too late to affect meaningful change in Afghanistan.

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Understanding Influence Operations: A Gastronomic Approach

By Robert Schoenhaus

Human influence is the linchpin that binds military activities together and relates those activities to the efforts of other governmental and non-governmental agencies. People, not infrastructure or equipment, present problems in any given country and people will inevitably solve them. Recognizing this truism, our challenge is to accept and understand the need for us to influence the lives of others, and to develop some level of expertise and collaboration in doing so.

Human influence is complex, but we need a simple construct to frame a discussion about it. I believe that people may be influenced to change an attitude or behavior through a combination information, persuasion and both general and specific shaping activities. In order to get someone to change an existing attitude or behavior, or to adopt a new one, we have to inform them about what we would like them to do. The clearer the information, and the more familiar the manner in which it is communicated, the more likely it is to be understood. There are some instances, where people are predisposed to believe or act, in which providing missing information alone can have that effect. In most cases, however, additional effort is needed.

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Effective Influence & Strategic Communication: Some Conjectured First Principles

We are making progress. Fresh back from the IO Institute’s Influence and Propaganda Conference, I am excited by the future of our discipline and the quality work that is being done. The event, hosted in Verona NY by the Association of Old Crows in partnership with the MountainRunner Institute, brought together military practitioners, commanders, academics, media, consultants and others, for a range of talks and discussions relating to propaganda, strategic communication, public diplomacy, information operations (IO) and influence. There was considerable agreement about where we are and should be headed. Most notably, the need to measure the effects of communication initiatives and their influence on behaviour was widely spoken about; as too the need for consistency across all words and deeds in line with an expansive, dialogic model of communication.

Confusion still reigns though. Especially, how do we integrate the many existing theories, ideas, research findings and field-reports into a coherent, widely accepted and scientifically validated methodology for conducting effective communication and behavioural change programmes? Influence could potentially serve its purpose in the 21st Century, as there will be no shortage of global problems to address! Yet, without compatible integration, without a measurable scientific approach, and without a systematic framework, conducting campaigns and interventions with a robust informational core will suffer from poor validation and verification: in short, the effects of our efforts will be unquantifiable.

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Influence and Propaganda Conference

IandP Conference Sign The Influence and Propaganda Conference continues tomorrow. Today’s discussion was fantastic with valuable insights from Todd Helmus, Ted Tzavellas, Steve Shaker, Adam Pechter, Bryan Rich, Michael Dominque, Steve Luckert, Lee Rowland, Glenn Ayers, Glenn Connor, Tim Hill, Cliff Gilmore, and Al Bynum.

Tomorrow is another day beginning with a presentation by Brad Gorham. This is followed by arguably the best panel of the conference: the media panel co-chaired by Russ Rochte and myself. The panel will include Jamie McIntyre, Bill Gertz, and Wally Dean. Following this panel is Mahan Tavakoli, Nancy Snow, Mike Waller, Amy Zalman, Cori Dauber, Carol Winkler, and Jim Farwell. Friday, the last day, has Brian Carlson, Evan Mitchell Stark, Joel Weinberger, John Foxe, and Wil Cunningham.

The conference is presented by the IO Institute, in partnership with the MountainRunner Institute. The IO Institute will post a transcript after the event.

Follow (and catch up) on live tweets from the event with the hash tag #iandp.

Influence and Propaganda Conference this week

2010iandpadThis week is the Influence and Propaganda Conference in Verona, New York, outside of Syracuse. Put on by the IO Institute in partnership with the MountainRunner Institute, the conference will be a frank and open discussion on the nature, purpose and format of propaganda and activities intended to influence. This conference comes at a critical time as the volume and quality of disinformation and misinformation increases in an environment that empowers virtually anyone. The gatekeepers of yesterday, governments and major media, are increasingly bypassed, ignored, reactionary or co-opted as today’s information flows across geographic, linguistic, political and technological borders with increasing ease and speed.

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Life from inside the storytelling machine: an author offers caveats on influence tools

By Dr. Amy Zalman

The inside cover promise to "unveil the workings of a ‘storytelling machine’ more effective and insidious as a means of oppression than anything dreamed up by Orwell," was incentive enough for me to pick up and start reading the recent English translation of French writer Christian Salmon’s Storytelling: Bewitching the Modern Mind.  Even more compelling for this reader: the ‘storytelling machine’ in question is one that I have been working in for the last  five years, as a proponent of the use of narrative as a tool of influence in U.S. strategic communication. 

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Event: Information Operations, the New Frontier in Full-Spectrum Warfare

Information Operations: The New Frontier in Full-Spectrum Warfare is a continuing education course taught by Chris Paul through the Organizational Effectiveness Institute. It will be held September 20-21 in Washington, DC. From the course description:

Information Operations (IO), as currently practiced by the U.S. Military, encompass a broad range of capabilities designed to inform, influence, persuade, or deceive target audiences, and a collection of technical capabilities focused on impacting systems for storing or transmitting information. Formally, IO capabilities include Psychological Operations, Electronic Warfare,Computer Network Operations, Operations Security, and Military Deception. The relationships between the IO capabilities and other activities including conventional military operations, related and supporting capabilities, and strategic communication are not always well understood, nor are they optimally organized for specific undertakings. This class explores these relationships and presents clear definitions for all the elements as they appear in the formal doctrine, and as they function in practice. The implications of the different approaches are discussed in depth.
You will benefit by enhancing your understanding of the:
  • History and evolution of IO and its component capabilities.
  • Practice and the potential of IO capabilities.
  • Ways to organize IO and how these impact relationships between capabilities and operational effectiveness.
  • Power of information for influence in pursuit of campaign objectives.
  • Efforts related to IO, such as public affairs, strategic communication, and public diplomacy.

The course outline and online registration is available here.

Chris Paul is Full Social Scientist at the RAND Corporation, frequent contributor to MountainRunner, colleague, and author of the textbook Information Operations: Doctrine and Practice.