War is about to break out between Bogaland and Gotland. Reportings in the capitals of each country, Huvudstad and Visby, respectively, tell of an deepening crisis. This isn’t real the real deal. It’s part of a media simulation the United States Joint Forces Command, "simumedia" if you will.
The nine year old World News Network, with its 1,000th newscast as part of a yearly US-Japan exercise, trains the military to consider, manage, and interact with the media.
The branch provides training on how the presence of mass media affects the planning and execution of military operations. The purpose is to educate commanders and their staffs on the influence mass media can have on their operations, and how to effectively work with the media while accomplishing their missions.
The more nimble, compared to State, Pentagon continues to leverage the massive amounts of money thrown at it as part of the GWOT. Through bureaucratic morass, budgetary constraints, and failed perceptions of value, the Pentagon engages the Rendon Group and cut-outs to seed black, gray, and white propaganda overseas to influence foreign and domestic audiences. Through these programs, DoD continues to get more sophisticated as an actor in media diplomacy, to the exclusion of or in advance of State.
World News Network, an internal services, "broadcasts" during exercises news on television, radio and the web. Placing and keeping the military on the front lines of the media war requires honing communication skills.
“We don’t just ‘deal’ with the media anymore,” Stephens explained. “We help the media tell our story. That’s the paradigm shift we’re making. The media in a free society provides a valuable service to its citizens, and we need to be open and honest in telling our story to them so they can tell the public. That’s what free societies are all about.”
The realism of the SimuMedia is emphasized in feedback and is necessary for effective training of the military.
“One of the challenges we have is operating in an exercise environment that blends live, virtual and constructed elements,” said Williams, who also serves as the branch manager. “Trainees don’t always get to see the entire picture. WNN has become another model. We are giving them images, voice, analysis and discussion that the other resources they have can’t provide. And we’re able to do it on the fly.”
The creation of JPASE as a permanent resource for public affairs (aka public diplomacy if were conducted by State) is another piece in the mosaic of military-centric communications with the world.
“JPASE brings the public affairs focus to the training and helps us shape the training we give to the public affairs professionals on those staffs,” Williams said. “We’re providing media those public affairs staffs have to work with during operations. It’s important that we stimulate public affairs staffs during training.”
Adding to the realism is contracted staff from outside the military or government.
“Using contractors also allows us to draw talent from the outside,” Green said. “We have people on the team who really were television reporters and producers before coming here. Others are former military public affairs professionals. We have a team of people with diverse talents and skills that operates as a cohesive unit.”
“We recognized a couple of years ago that we were trying to emulate television news and newspaper organizations, so we asked ourselves, why not hire people from that environment?” Williams said.
Where is State? They are forced to sit on the side without the money or resources to provide a non-military face to foreign publics while the military continues to become more sophisticated in participating in and managing media diplomacy. Is this the path we really want to be going down?