Defense Department Plan on Strategic Communication and Science and Technology

A newly released report from the Department of Defense may be the first to specifically consider the role of science and technology (S&T) efforts supporting the broad range of Strategic Communication (SC) activities across the whole of government. The Strategic Communication Science and Technology Plan, April 2009, (PDF) produced by the Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO) within the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Director, Defense Research Engineering (DDRE), responds to direction in the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, which calls for the Department to leverage these efforts to designate an “S&T thrust area for strategic communication and focus on critical S&T opportunities.” Congress and RRTO authorized publication of this report on

The plan describes current efforts within the Department of Defense, the military services, the combatant commands, and other agencies on SC. In total, these efforts could be linked together to form the foundation of an S&T thrust area for strategic communication. The report also includes a macro-analysis of capability gaps not being addressed by ongoing initiatives and lays out potential areas for future S&T investment.

While the request for the plan itself represents recognition from Congress that SC plays a critical role in the public and private response to current and emerging threats, it also highlights that there is much research and development already underway and many tools available to increase the government’s effectiveness in global engagement. The rub today is the need for strong leadership and coordination to ensure: 1) awareness of the long list of capabilities; 2) incorporating these capabilities into plans; and 3) participation by stakeholders across the US government, NGO’s, industry, and private citizens.

The S&T plan sorts current efforts into the following categories:

  • Infrastructure: Enabling and facilitating access to information from news to markets to vocational
  • Social Media: Knowledge Management, Social Media, and Virtual Worlds
  • Discourse: Analysis of radical and counter-radical messages and ideas
  • Modeling and Forecasting: Gaming and anticipating adversarial messages and ideas as well as our counters and pre-emptive measures
  • Collaboration: Increasing collaboration and training across and beyond Government
  • First Three Feet: Empowering, Equipping, Educating, and Encouraging media and others to exist and freely report on events for what they really are
  • Understanding: Develop country, culture, and regional expertise, including polling
  • Psychological Defense: Planning and capacity building for dealing with critical strains on society in peacetime and wartime

Several examples are highlighted (p11) but Appendix A (p23) is perhaps the first of its kind inventory of current activities (as of February 2009).

The report includes a three page gap analysis. The gap between plans and requirements areas fell into four overlapping and related thematic areas, each with four or five sub-points listed in the report (p16-19).

  1. Engaging America’s leadership
  2. Empowering the interagency process
  3. Equipping for an information-based future
  4. Facilitating audience activities

The report notes technology is “an enabler for SC, not an end in itself, and enabling SC requires looking across organizational, conceptual, as well as technological opportunities to produce the most effective outcomes.”

Look at the plan and consider ways to close the gaps. We appreciate your comments both online below and offline.

Download Strategic Communication Science and Technology Plan, April 2009 (596kb PDF).

[Full disclosure: I was a co-author on this report]

3 thoughts on “Defense Department Plan on Strategic Communication and Science and Technology

  1. Haven’t read completely but it looks like a valuable undertaking. Having said that, I’m always suspect when PYSOP, MILDEC and information operations are listed separately without reference to definitions. That just exacerbates the continuing misunderstanding about these concepts.

  2. Dennis,Don’t worry, we didn’t do any breakout by operational area. Our focus was on the programs. The graphics showing the overlaps, gaps, or fit between the PA/IO/PSYOP/MILDEC were based on conversations with senior leadership in the field.
    This report was released to push for change in leadership, collaboration (hint of irony there), and support. We hope there will be a second report that will show improvements and increased awareness across and within the communities on the subject matter.

  3. Quick question, has state/PCC released an update to the 2007 U.S. National Strategy for Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication? Or is congress still waiting for that report?

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