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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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Cartel Info Ops: Power and Counter-power in Mexico’s Drug War

By John P. Sullivan

Mexico’s cartels are increasingly using refined information operations (info ops) to wage their war against each other and the Mexican state, as noted in a recent post “Mexican narcos step up their information war” here at MountainRunner. These info ops include the calculated use of instrumental and symbolic violence to shape the conflict environment.  The result: attacks on media outlets, and kidnappings and assassinations of journalists by narco-cartels to obscure operations and silence critics.  Editors and journalists turn to self-censorship to protect themselves; others have become virtual mouthpieces for the gangs and cartels, only publishing materials the cartels approve.  Cartels are now beginning to issue press releases to control the information space–through censorship and cartel co-option of reportage. Finally, the public, government and even cartels are increasingly using new media (horizontal means of mass self-communication) to influence and understand the raging criminal insurgencies.

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Communicating Their Own Story: Progress in the Afghan National Security Force

NTM-A

By Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, IV

“The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armory of the modern commander.” – T.E. Lawrence

Lawrence’s words continue to ring true. In conflicts from the First World War to Korea; from Vietnam to the Gulf War, the nation that wins the information battle tends to win the larger war. Today, America and her partners are engaged in a fight that is every bit as important as its earlier wars: ensuring that Afghanistan is secure, independent, and free of the forces that launched attacks on the people of the world on September 11, 2001. It is a contest that requires painful sacrifices of blood and treasure but one that, if the lessons of history hold, can only be won on the information battlefield.

NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) and its partners have been charged with assisting the Afghan government in building the capabilities and capacities necessary for the Afghan National Security Force to defend their homeland. While many of NTM-A’s efforts focus on enabling the Afghans to pursue the physical battle – improving skill with weapons, providing leadership and tactics training, and constructing logistics and intelligence systems – the organization has invested significant resources into assisting the Afghans in carrying the information fight to the Taliban and the nation’s other enemies.

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Getting a handle on Strategic Communication

I have been in many discussions over the past few weeks concerning DoD’s efforts at “Strategic Communication.” In one discussion I was asked, “just what is ‘strategic communication’ and why can’t DoD get a handle on it?”

A fair question and one I’ve heard often. I thought it time to put this down in print. “Strategic Communication” is the deliberate application of information and boils down to: Who do I need to know What, Why do I need them to know it, When do I need them to know it, Where are they, and How do I reach them. A relatively simple task that scales with the complexity of the goal you are planning to achieve. It is also a matter of situational awareness as a friend of mine pointed out, “As I reflected on our discussion, I thought about my old commander, Maj. Gen. John H. Admire, Commander of the First Marine Division, and his saying for good situational awareness. He told us to ask ourselves, ‘What do I know? Who needs to know? and Have I told them?’”

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China hosts seminar for developing countries on guiding public opinion and building a national brand

Last month, China hosted an event for Information Ministers from twenty developing countries titled “Actively Guiding Public Opinion and Building up Sound National Image.” According to Sierra Leone News:

The workshop focused on the cooperation and development between the Chinese and foreign media and information department encompassing political, economic, cultural and social aspects.

Participants raised grave concern about the negative media coverage given to developing countries despite efforts of these countries to match up with modern standards.

The Secretary General of the Information office in China, Mr. Feng Xwang said the western media controls the voice of news report thereby failing to report on the social life of the people.  He said Africa, Asia and South America should join forces with China to strengthen their media landscape and bring new opportunities to the media sector.

Vice Minister of the Information Office in Beijing, China, Professor Wang Zhong Wei in his presentation threw light on the rapid development of the Chinese media industry over the last three decades. He said that their media industry has become dynamic, best structured in terms of content and diversity. He said the Chinese information office is ready to embrace collaboration with other media organizations in developing countries to assist in the re-branding of developing nations.

In her contribution, Sierra Leone Deputy Information and Communication Minister suggested the establishment of an African Radio and Television station that would help tell the stories of developing countries better.

[Deputy Information of Information] Madam Saidata Sesay informed her colleagues that her government has recently transformed the then only government mouth piece radio and TV station to a public corporation in the interest of good governance. She appealed to the Chinese Information Office to reactivate the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA)  and to assist in the establishment of a media center which she believed would enhance media development and capacity building in that profession.

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Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy Caucus briefing

The Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy Caucus is holding a briefing this Thursday, June 17th at 9:00am in Room 121 of the Cannon House Office Building to discuss the National Framework for Strategic Communication, the Secretary of State’s Strategic Framework for Public Diplomacy, and the Secretary of Defense’s “1055 Report” on Strategic Communication.

Briefers include Mr. Pradeep Ramamurthy from the White House National Security Staff, Ms. Kitty DiMartino from the State Department, and Ms. Rosa Brooks from the Department of Defense. The one-hour briefing will include time for questions and answers.

RSVP with Katy Quinn in Rep. Adam Smith’s office at Katy.Quinn@mail.house.gov or with Michael Clauser in Rep. Mac Thornberry’s office at Michael.Clauser@mail.house.gov.

See also:

Recommendations from the first semi-annual report of the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

Sixty years ago, the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy was actually called the Advisory Commission on Information. A year after it was officially established by the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, and not too longer after its first members were confirmed, the Commission issued its first semi-annual (as in twice a year compared to today’s annual) reports. Below is an excerpt from The New York Times reporting on that first report. Note the membership of the Commission and the mention of private media.

An immediate and broad expansion of the world-wide information program being conducted by the State Department, including the activities of the Voice of America. was urged today by the United States Advisory Commission on Information in its first semi-annual report to Congress.

The group, which was created by Congress, is headed by Mark Ethridge, publisher of The Louisville Courier-journal. It includes Erwin D. Canham, editor of The Christian Science Monitor; Philip D. Reed, chairman of the General Electric Company; Mark A. May, director of the Institute of Human Relations at Yale, and Justin Miller, president of the National Association of Broadcasters.

“A realistic approach,” the commission said, “requires that we provide a budget better balanced between the three-pronged program of military, economic and information policy. A budget which contemplates $15,000,000,000 for military, $5,000,000,000 for economic and only $36,000,000 for information and educational services, does not provide an effective tool for cleaning out the Augean Stables of international confusion and misunderstanding.” …

The commission presented the following conclusions: … “The dissemination of American private media abroad is primarily and essentially an informational activity and the responsibility and funds for this activity should be placed with the Department of State, and the activities should not be limited to the countries receiving aid under the European Recovery Act.”

This was published March 31, 1949.

Failure can be achieved with one action, success happens over time

Short and to the point observation by Galrahn at Information Dissemination that winning a battle does not mean winning a war.

The Navy deploys hospital ships to other countries, but then turns around and takes a poll to measure success. In other words, the Navy is measuring success based on an opinion of an action.

But opinions also measure perception, and hospital ship deployments do not have an associated strategic communication strategy targeting the population of the country it is servicing, rather only has a blog telling stories in English to the American people of events as they unfold.

He follows with a suggestion of true multiple media engagement (person and radio).

I don’t care how ugly it is, someone should stick a giant radio tower on top of the hospital ships and broadcast the coolest damn DJ you can find that speaks the language of the places the hospital ships go to. If Al Qaeda has a radio station in the Middle of Pakistani Mtns to broadcast their propaganda of hate, why can’t we put a radio station on a ship and send out a message of friendship?

What providing wi-fi or wi-max or even temporary cellular connectivity, all for free? Such broadcasts might be in conflict with the host nation’s telecommunications monopoly, but there are diplomatic ways around that.

Thoughts?