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

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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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.

9th Annual Information Operations Europe Conference

imageThe 9th Annual Information Operations Europe takes place 29-30 June 2010 at The Bloomsbury Hotel in London. The conference will provide information operations case studies from Afghanistan, future plans from the UK and an examination of New and Social Media from the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, the US Defense Department, NATO, and Canadian Forces, and others.

Day One – 29 June – starts with three keynotes from the UK MoD followed by 40 minute presentations by Sarah Nagelmann and Matt Armstrong. The UK MoD presentations look at the purposes, capabilities, and challenges of strategic-level information and influence operations. Sarah will discuss the new media strategy for NATO SHAPE and EUCOM. Matt will discuss the modern Now Media environment, with attention to Wikileaks, an interesting non-state global influencer.

Other presenters on Day One include Matt Bigge (“Technology Based. Human Enabled: The Future Of Cultural Information Engagement”), George Stein (“The Influence And Intelligence Opportunities Of Virtual Worlds”), Ed O’Connell (“Informal Network Analysis And Engagement In Conflict Zones”), and David Campbell (“Innovative Use Of The Media For Outreach In East Africa”).

Day Two – 30 June – is heavily focused on Afghanistan, with case studies and lessons learned.

See also:

Event: 9th Annual Information Operations – Europe

The UK-based Defence IQ has announced the date and venue for the 9th annual Information Operations Europe conference. The event will take place June 29-30, 2010, at the Bloomsbury Hotel in London. The agenda is available.

Topics include:

  • Media in Modern Warfare, by Major General Gordon Messenger, Director of Strategic Communications, UK MoD
  • UK’s Influence Capability, by Air Commodore Robert Judson, Head of Targeting and Information Operations, UK MoD
  • Where Counterinsurgency meets Culture, by Eric Sutphin, Chief Target Audience Analyst, Combined Joint Psychological Operations Task Force, ISAF HQ, NATO
  • Audience Engagement in Afghanistan, by Maryann Maguire, Director of Communications (DCSU), Afghan Specialist Joint Implementation Team, UK MoD
  • Countering Violent Extremism, by James Barber, Information Operations Division, HQ US Africa Command
  • Influence and Intelligence Opportunities of Virtual Worlds, by Professor George Stein, Cyberspace & Info Ops Study Centre, Air War College, US Air Force
  • Future of Cultural Information Engagement, by Matt Bigge, CEO, Strategic Social

I will be there and will present on Now Media (tentatively 4p of Day 1) and participating on a panel (11.40a Day 1) with:

  • Air Commodore Robert Judson, Head of Targeting and Information Operations, UK MoD
  • Brigadier Mark Van der Lande, Head of Defence Public Relations, Directorate General and Media Communications, UK MoD
  • Sarah Nagelmann, Strategic Communications Advisor to US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO

The VOICE Act: Victims of Iranian Censorship

Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE), chairing a hearing with four past and present Under Secretaries for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, mentioned the VOICE Act in his opening remarks. From my experience, unless you’ve sat in on one of my presentations sometime in the last eight months, odds are you don’t know what it is. The VOICE Act is a product of Senators in the Armed Services Committee: John McCain (R-AZ), Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Robert Casey (D-PA).

(Interesting note: Senators Kaufman and Wicker – plus Senator Jim Webb – are the only Congressman (House or Senate) that are on both an armed services committee and a foreign relations (Senate) or foreign affairs (House) committee. These two Senators chaired the recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing titled The Future of Public Diplomacy.)

The VOICE Act, also known as the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act, was passed by the Senate in S. 1391 on July 23, 2009. It passed the conference between House and Senate armed services committees on October 8, 2009 and with the President’s signature on October 28, 2009, it became Public Law 111-84: the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010.

The VOICE Act is a notable (and rare) example of Defense Department-focused entities – the armed services committees – authorizing substantial funding for the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. However, the $55 million (details are below) authorized is not yet funded. In what could have been a very visible demonstration of putting his money where his mouth is, to the best of my knowledge, the late Congressman John Murtha (D-PA), chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, did not push to fund the VOICE Act despite saying the State Department should be doing more.

The VOICE Act is on the books, but it lacks funding.

So what does the VOICE Act authorize? On his website, Sen McCain touts the VOICE Act as “bipartisan legislation that will help strengthen the ability of the Iranian people get access to news and information and overcome the electronic censorship and monitoring efforts of the Iranian regime.”

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Defense Department releases its Section 1055 report on strategic communication

According to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, the Defense Department was required to provide a report on

the organizational structure within the Department of Defense for advising the Secretary on the direction and priorities for strategic communication activities, including an assessment of the option of establishing a board, composed of representatives from among the organizations within the Department responsible for strategic communications, public diplomacy, and public affairs, and including advisory members from the broader interagency community as appropriate, for purposes of (1) providing strategic direction for Department of Defense efforts related to strategic communications and public diplomacy; and (2) setting priorities for the Department of Defense in the areas of strategic communications and public diplomacy.

This report (PDF, 660kb) is known as the 1055 report, after the section of the NDAA that called for it.

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Ridicule as Strategic Communication

Kristin Fleischer at COMOPS comments on friend Mike Waller’s suggestion in Fighting the War of Ideas like Real War that ridicule is a “secret weapon worse than death.”

Although the suggestion that ridicule and satire are legitimate tools of strategic communication might receive some – dare I say it – ridicule, Waller’s argument is a good one. Ridicule and satire have a long history in warfare, and they have been deployed both offensively and defensively. In the U.S., ridicule was used in the Revolutionary War, both to mock the British troops and to raise the morale of the American fighters. In WWII, domestic use of ridicule targeted Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito. In a more contemporary example, Waller cites Team America: World Police as an example of effective parody of Islamic terrorists and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.  While a movie that features graphic sex between puppets might not have universal appeal, Waller is correct in pointing out that prior to the movie, American audiences would likely not consider the Korean dictator someone to laugh at.

Waller’s suggestions regarding the strategic use of ridicule are an expansion of arguments he andothers have made about the importance of language use in ‘the war of ideas.’ In ‘buying into’ terrorist’s language – especially by using terms such as jihad and mujahidin – Waller argues that the U.S. and its allies, “ceased fighting on our terms and placed our ideas at the enemy’s disposal” (p. 54). If this is a war of ideas, and words are weapons, then we need to be using the right ammunition, so to speak. …

This is not to suggest that the threat of terrorism is non-existent or a call to underestimate Al Qaeda’s ideological appeal or material capabilities, and Waller is quick to point out (correctly) that ridicule can be as dangerous as any kinetic weapon when improperly deployed. In the nine years since September 11, however, far more people in the United States have died of heart failure, diabetes, or car accidents than terrorist attacks. Given this, pointing out that Americans statistically have more to fear from a cheeseburger than a ‘guy in a cave’ is not only true, it’s good strategy.

Read the Fleischer’s whole post here.

Defense and Strategic Communication: what did Congress ask for before the recess?

Much has been made of made of Congressional concerns over the Defense Department’s role in strategic communication and as the de facto leading public diplomat in policy, engagement, and personnel. At first the lack of informed media coverage – and shallow or error-filled when it exists – is ironic considering the subject, but there it is part of a trend when considering that in general public diplomacy and the laws governing it are also subject to misinformation and misinterpretation (PDF, 140kb).

When The Washington Post reported on July 28 on the House Appropriations decision to slash $500 million from the estimated Defense budget request for strategic communication programs – for 10 (ten) programs which should have been “IO” (information operations) programs, a minor difference – Walter Pincus mentioned requests from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees (HASC and SASC, respectively) that preceded the House Appropriations – Defense Subcommittee (HACD) action. For your reference, the actionable items for the Defense Department in the area of strategic communication from the reports of the HASC, SASC, and HACD are below.

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Qualified Support from Congress of DoD Strategic Communication

For your reference, the below citations are from reports of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees from before the summer recess in support of Defense information activities commonly referred to as strategic communication. As far as the House Appropriations Committee, Defense Subcommittee, there is nothing in support of DOD information activities, as you may already know. The numbers in parentheses at the end of each citation is the page number of the report.

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Inspector General’s report on Information Operations Contracts

OD IG 09-091_Page_01Last month the Defense Department’s Inspector General issued the first of three reports, D-2009-091: Information Operations in Iraq (2.2mb PDF), on a series of contracts issued to support information activities in Iraq last year. Congress requested these reports after Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus wrote about the awarding of up to $300 million in information operations contracts over three years to four private firms last year in "U.S. to Fund Pro-American Publicity in Iraqi Media".

Arguably the goal of the contracts to "engage and inspire" Iraqis to support the US and the Iraqi Government should have been led by the State Department’s public diplomacy, a practice which used to include such goals as "bolstering moral and extending hope". But for a variety of reasons – ranging from incompatibilities with modern requirements and current sense of mission, leadership, and capabilities – the void left by inaction and the dismantling of America’s arsenal of persuasion in terms of theory and practice, has been filled by the Defense Department. The DOD, who until recently rejected the term "public diplomacy" as something only the State Department did, developed the yet-to-be-well-defined rubric of strategic communication which reflects a subtle but significant difference between the State Department and the Defense Department.

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