Separating IO and PA

To no one’s surprise, the nearly religious separation between information operations and public affairs continues in Iraq today. I just read MountainRunner buddy David Axe’s interview of BGen Robert Holmes, Deputy Director of Operations for CENTCOM at BlackFive:

DAVID AXE: [I]s there like an IO surge, then, to sort of accompany the new tact we’re taking in Iraq?

GEN. HOLMES: Well, I think all along your information operators, if you will — and we have to draw a line there, and I think you can particularly understand — the military, what we would look at as operational capabilities for information operations include certain things like, you know, psychological operations and then some other things with regard to I think Internet ops and things like that, which some of those I can’t get into, one, because they part of ongoing operations, and just for the operational security involved, I can’t go into it.

But I can tell you the focus is to use the information battlespace against our adversary. They use it; they use it quite well. They’re very agile and adept at using it. In some cases they can use it to — they’re not bound to the things — the policies and the values that we hold with regard to truthful information. So we go into that battlespace, if you will, if you don’t mind me calling it that, fully knowing that this is an enemy that is extreme, it is violent, and it’s going to use information to serve its purpose. On our hand, we look at how we counter that violent information or that propaganda with truthful information.

Now, having said that, I definitely understand the lines drawn between military psychological operations and, you know, we are — have policy and doctrine that allows us to do that, to tell “good news” stories, if you will, in the country where we have combat operations going on. And I also understand the line then drawn between our public affairs folks which, you know, are there for a certain reason.

Now, have we stepped up IO? We have quite a robust process in place to look at the information in media space; we look at cyberspace and see what we can do to engage our adversary there. MNF-I — and I’m sure you’re familiar with, you know, their strategic effects cell under the past leadership of General Bill Caldwell, and now Admiral Fox has stepped up into that role, and they’re very, very prolific, very active, very agile right there in Iraq.

We’re looking now at what we do to counter the Taliban as we see them in Afghanistan, particularly right now with their propaganda campaign about the collateral damage. And then we’re looking all across the region so that we communicate effectively, at least from our role as the combatant commander, those priorities that the commander has laid out for us.

Now, we cannot do that in isolation from what our national policies are, what our national priorities are with regard to security and stability and setting conditions for peace. So we’re interlocking, if you will, with the State Department’s Office for Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication under Ambassador Hughes. And we’re setting the conduits up from our components and then here at Central Command, as the combatant command, with the Department of Defense in joint staff activities and then interlocking right into Ms. Hughes’ office.

That may have been a long answer, but it’s sort of a — I felt like I needed to share all of that with you, so that you’d see that it’s not just a huge hoopla in public — in PR, but it’s a well- focused effort to counter the enemy’s use of information and that part of — in our present asymmetric war. And information is a huge part of that.

Damn straight it was a long answer. The short of it, no. He’s stuttering and dancing around, with all due respect. We already know effective preemption is too much to ask for, so what are they doing? Well, they’re trying to “interlock” with Karen Hughes’ office….

I STRONGLY URGE YOU TO READ THE ENTIRE BLACKFIVE POST as well as the very informed comments if you are interested in the effectiveness of IO as well as the breadth of the potential impact of IO beyond Iraq.

I leave it to you to draw lessons from the post.

One Reply to “Separating IO and PA”

  1. BGen Holmes’ comments sadden me because a great deal of effort has been aimed at CENTCOM in particular to glue together some cohesive information activities effort between DOS and DOD. I’m sure there are many in the ‘trenches’ who do understand it (including some PA officers), but without vision from the leadership much of it is for naught. While I doubt that Holmes’ reflects Petraeus’ thoughts on this matter, the very nature of information activities across the PA and IO domains requires a cohesive regional (if not global) effort. Hence, CENTCOM would be the linchpin around which those efforts would operate as well as be coordinated with DOS and the embassies. The shame should go to DOD and, in this case, the USAF, for not educating a senior officer of this need.

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