Understanding Information Effects

From the ink-still-wet FM 3-0, the new manual everyone’s talking about that raises the importance of stabilization (and here) and information.  The introductory quote from Chapter 7, Information Superiority (culturally I understand the selection, but it conveys internally and externally the wrong thing):

Be first with the truth. Since Soldier actions speak louder than what [public affairs officers] say, we must be mindful of the impact our daily interactions with Iraqis have on global audiences via the news media. Commanders should communicate key messages down to the individual level, but, in general, leaders and Soldiers should be able to tell their stories unconstrained by overly prescriptive themes. When communicating, speed is critical—minutes and hours matter—and we should remember to communicate to local (Arabic/Iraqi) audiences first—U.S./global audience can follow. Tell the truth, stay in your lane, and get the message out fast. Be forthright and never allow enemy lies to stand unchallenged. Demand accuracy, adequate context, and proper characterization from the media.
Multinational Corps–Iraq
Counterinsurgency Guidance 2007

The manual makes great strides in shaping the future of information effects in American foreign policy, namely security policy.  Putting information on target will increasingly be more important than putting steel on target, especially when dealing with the asymmetric adversary that cannot – and does not need to – need match the military or economic power of the United States and her allies. 

Speaking with LTG Caldwell yesterday, I asked him about the cultural rifts between public affairs and other information teams.  This was his response:

…we had a discussion with[Army Public Affairs] in there about PA, its relationship to IO, how it all fits together, the importance of the fact that information engagement is what has to synchronize both public affairs and information operations. It is absolutely imperative that the two are working and aware of what the other one is doing. And they have been synchronized. And so it’s in the engagement area that we, in fact, are doing that. There is a clear difference and distinction: whereas public affairs is there to inform, information operations is there to influence foreign audiences. So there is a clear delineation between the two, but at the same time, it’s imperative that they are complementary with each other.

The manual does help in this regard.  But this is the Army’s doctrine and while it’s felt elsewhere, even in part written with collaboration of other services (excepting the Air Force?), it does not change the institutional divides. 

This manual makes strides in elevating both the importance of stabilization operations and the importance of perceptions.  The effectiveness of information campaigns today will more often dictate a victory than how well steel is put on a target. Putting information on target is more important when dealing with the asymmetric adversary that cannot – and does not need to – need match the military or economic power of the United States and her allies.

However, more must be done across the board. 

More later.

2 Replies to “Understanding Information Effects”

  1. I was encouraged by the direction the FM takes information as an important part of modern warfare. Your reference to “information effects” is spot on. We need to get away from discussing IO and SC and focus on information effects. That allows us to get away from these new and mysterious terms and allows warfighters to use a lexicon that is familiar and fits into current planning processes. I note that there is little reference to IO in the FM itself…and I assume that is intentional, and welcome. Finally, to emphasize the point, the chapter entitled “Information Superiority” should be entitled “Information Effects.” The information environment of today does not allow nation-states to achieve information superiority in the cognitive dimension. Too many wildcards and too many individuals are enabeled with new media means. Nation-states should, on the other hand, be expected to manage the information environment effectively.

  2. InformationInWarfare,I agree with what you wrote. All that the U.S. does is based on means and not effect. We divide the labor, audiences, and tools almost arbitrarily with little if any regard to the desire impact.
    We must get beyond the uniquely American separation of efforts and audiences and create coherent and collective approaches to achieve results.

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