Science and Technology for Communication and Persuasion Abroad: Gap Analysis and Survey

Since 9/11, the U.S. Government has invested heavily in technology-based solutions to understanding, informing, and influencing people around the world and across a variety of mediums. Many of these efforts were sponsored by the Defense Department for reasons that include major appropriations by the Congress, a capability (and culture) of contracting, a capability (and culture) of development, and an imperative for action (non-action may result in an unnecessary death). In 2009, the Defense Department’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO) surveyed the landscape of science and technology programs intended to support Strategic Communication with the purpose of identifying gaps between capabilities and requirements as well as suggesting areas of improvement.

In 2011, the RRTO commissioned the Center for Naval Analysis to update the 2009 report. The new report, written by CNA’s Will McCants and entitled “Science and Technology for Communication and Persuasion Abroad: Gap Analysis and Survey,” (7mb PDF) is now available.

The 2012 report is based on interviews with experts inside and outside government, surveying programs, and reviewing academic and professional literature. Gaps identified in 2009 have not been closed over the past few years, according to this new report.

McCants further identified areas where the Government has made limited research & development investments not addressed in the earlier report. There additional areas include technologies for facilitating and managing online engagement and persuasion campaigns. The specific report headings are:

  • Survey and validation theories and techniques for influence in the digital realm
  • Target audience analysis, trend monitoring, and source criticism
  • Online measures of effectiveness
  • Training in techniques of communication and persuasion in the digital realm
  • Immersive virtual environments and simulation games for non-military purposes
  • Persuasive technology on mobile devices for encouraging positive behavior
  • Crowd sourcing for problem solving and accountability
  • Studying adversary use of social media
  • Technology for promoting freedom under repressive regimes
  • Expanding investment in emerging technologies

This report acknowledges the importance of engagement, empowerment, and cultivating relationships over simply better targeting of messages. The report reinforces the 2009 statement that there are no silver bullets.

“Despite the focus of this report on technology for communication and persuasion, such technology will only succeed in advancing U.S. interests if it serves well-informed policies; if the senior makers of those policies use and understand the technologies themselves; and if the practitioners carrying out those policies remember that putting a human face on an institution’s words and actions and establishing positive relationships — on and offline — with people working toward shared goals matter more than the substance of any particular message. Ironically, digital technology is making this human connection more possible now than at any time in the modern era.”

The survey of current programs included in the report continues to use the taxonomy of program developed for the 2009 report: Collaboration, Discourse, First Three Feet, Infrastructure, Modeling and Forecasting, Psych Defense, Social Media, and Understanding. The inventory reflects an increased understanding of the communication environment and suggests. Out of the some 30 programs listed, only one is at the State Department (the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication, or CSCC) and arguably a benefactor of S&T investment rather than a product of S&T investment.

(Full disclosure: I was a co-author of the 2009 report and consulted on the 2012 report.)

The President’s National Framework for Strategic Communication (and Public Diplomacy) for 2012

It should be common knowledge that the “information consequences of policy ought always be taken into account, and the information man ought always to be consulted. This statement from 1951 foreshadowed Eisenhower’s dictum of the next year that “everything we say, everything we do, and everything we fail to say or do will have its impact in other lands.” Words and deeds needed more than just synchronization as public opinion could be leveraged to support the successful conduct of foreign policy.  Continue reading “The President’s National Framework for Strategic Communication (and Public Diplomacy) for 2012”

The Public Diplomacy of Drones

Today’s article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “More Drones, Fewer Troops” looks at the policy behind the increasing use and reliance on drones, but it misses an essential point: unmanned warfare’s impact on public opinion and public diplomacy.  While the technical and budgetary advantages of unmanned systems are front and center, their impact on foreign policy are often an aside, usually in the context of meddlesome by-products of using “drones.”  We have seen, if not acknowledged, the powerful impact of human intervention (e.g. SEAL Team Six) over the powerful impact of robots, either remote controlled or autonomous.  Leaving the issue of the public diplomacy of these activities on the margins of planning is short-sighted and unwise.
In my article “The Strategic Communication of Unmanned Warfare” (June 2008), I explored the impact of ground robots, intentionally avoiding flying drones because since World War II, flyers and targets were largely anonymous from each: death rained from above.  Today’s communication environment and technical advances are removing the “air gap” between the ground and the flyer, or drone in this case, allowing for direct links between policy and the people on the ground.

This topic requires a deeper discussion.  Public diplomacy and strategic communication must be on the take-offs of drones, not just the landings, crash landings or otherwise.  In lieu of an organization that could look at this, I invite comments and articles on the subject to be posted at MountainRunner.us.

See also Unintended Consequences of Armed Robots in Modern Conflict from October 2007.

 

US Navy Rescues Iranian fisherman after saving Iranian cargo ship

According to CJ Chivers of The New York Times, this week the US Navy broke up an attempted hijacking of an Iranian cargo ship by Somali pirates and after some clever surveillance, ended up rescuing Iranian fishermen held hostage by the same pirates.

Senior Iranian military officials this week bluntly warned an American aircraft carrier that it would confront the “full force” of the Iranian military if it tried to re-enter the Persian Gulf. ,,, On Friday, Fazel Ur Rehman, a 28-year-old Iranian fisherman, had a warmer greeting for the carrier task force. … “It is like you were sent by God,” said Mr. Rehman, huddled under a blanket in this vessel’s stern. “Every night we prayed for God to rescue us. And now you are here.”

That’s a nice story and all — it is potentially good public diplomacy fodder for the region, especially Iran — but I’d like to know how Parazit plays the story.  Parazit is the Voice of America’s Persian News Service program that’s been compared to The Daily Show.  Good thing that due to Smith-Mundt I can’t watch otherwise there would be yet another violation of Smith-Mundt if I were able to watch the program.  Wait, I can watch, but if only I knew Farsi…

The Second Battle of Hastings

By Cliff W. Gilmore
Don't cross the streams!Michael Hastings’ most recent attempt to unseat a U.S. general alleges members of the military illegally used Information Operations (IO) and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) activities to shape the perceptions of elected U.S. officials and senior military leaders. Many respondents quickly addressed a need to clarify lines between various communication activities including Information Operations, Psychological Operations (recently re-named Military Information Support Operations or MISO), Public Affairs (PA) and Strategic Communication (SC). Amidst the resulting smoke and fury both Hastings and his detractors are overlooking a greater underlying problem: Many in the military continue to cling with parochial vigor to self-imposed labels – and the anachronistic paradigms they represent – that defy the very nature of a rapidly evolving communication environment.

The allegations highlight two false assumptions that guide the U.S. military’s approach to communication in an environment defined not by the volume and control of information but by the speed and ease with which people today communicate with one another. This article identifies these assumptions and recommends several actions to avoid yet another Battle of Hastings by eliminating existing stovepipes rather than strengthening them. The analysis presented here is grounded in two key established Truths.

Continue reading “The Second Battle of Hastings”

Holmes spotlights doctrinal delineation of IO and PA

The majority of the discussion and concern created by the Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings centered on statements by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Holmes that he was illegally tasked. I discuss the real issue exposed by this and the previous article by Hastings on General Stanley McChrystal of doctrinal and structural problems in the U.S. military in an article at ForeignPolicy.com entitled “Mind Games.”
On his Facebook page, Holmes links to a MountainRunner post on a roundtable discussion with Lieutenant General William Caldwell, IV, until recently Holmes’s commanding officer and then Commanding General of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth. The topic was the just-released revision to FM 3-0, the Operations manual for the Army, and the new attention to information activities.

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I have discussed on this blog before , at conferences and elsewhere, the distinction between “inform” and “influence” is artificial. In the comparison between the two, “influence” for practical purposes code for “deception” (some might argue “manipulation” as well, but that is just as broad and subjective: this post after all is an attempt to manipulate your opinion). Cliff W. Gilmore delves into the fallacy of “inform but not influence” deeper in his post The Second Battle of Hastings, so here I’ll stick to the statement highlighted by Holmes.

Public affairs doctrine includes “providing trusted counsel to leaders” that falls within the orders apparently given to Holmes. From page I-4 in public affairs doctrine, Joint Publication 3-61, revised 25 August 2010, “Providing Trusted Counsel to Leaders”:

This core competency includes anticipating and advising [Joint Force Commanders] on the possible impact of military operations and activities within the public information realm.  This also includes preparing JFCs to communicate with audiences through the media and other methods of communication, as well as analyzing and interpreting the information environment, monitoring domestic and foreign public understanding, and providing lessons learned from the past.

The “delineation between” IO and PA that Holmes spotlights on Facebook is an operational distinction. As Holmes was not being tasked to do IO, his argument would seem to be that he is an IO asset and therefore incapable of doing non-IO work. This could be viewed as a surgeon saying he can’t carry ammo boxes or a demolition specialist unable to do explosive ordinance disposal because he job is to destroy not protect.

Under this theoretical model, should Holmes have been required to change from the unit? Would this transfer from an IO team to a PA team been all that was required as tasking was inadequate? Would his concerns be mollified if he left the theater and returned with a different patch?

Holmes highlights a parochial view of the stovepipes of U.S. military informational engagement that focuses on the tools rather than purpose, requirements and means.

With regard to the legal review of the first order given to Holmes, I have not seen either the order nor the analysis, but it is my experience that the lawyers are often more behind the curve on the definitions and doctrine surrounding the information environment.

As an aside, the parochial limitations on “influence” in the military distinguish audiences based on a legal construct: the “target” cannot be an American citizen. This lends to a prohibition on engaging on U.S. soil because of the likelihood of a U.S. citizen will be engaged. Whether this means an adversary could create a legal “shield” against military “influence” activities by having American citizens among them is unclear to me.

The State Department’s prohibition (the same as the Broadcasting Board of Governors), in the form of the Smith-Mundt Act that Holmes mentioned, is based on geography only. The requirement and limitation is material is to be disseminated abroad. There is no test of citizenship – despite popular belief that the Smith-Mundt Act “protects” “Americans”.

Holmes, Caldwell, Psy-Ops and the Smith-Mundt Act

imageThe recent Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings has brought to the surface a debate over the difference between “inform,” “influence” and the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. In his article “”Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators,” Hastings relies heavily – if not entirely – on the statements by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Holmes concerned over his orders while at the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan.
As I noted in my recent article “Mind Games: Why Rolling Stone’s article on the military’s domestic psy-ops scandal gets it so wrong” (No, I did not come up with either the title or imagesubtitle), what “Another Runaway General” highlights is the deficit in the training, definition, and tactics, techniques and procedures of the informational functional areas in the military. In other words, who does what and why continues to be a confusing mess within the Defense Department. The result is continued confusion and stereotyping both inside and outside the military on the roles, capabilities and expectations that create headlines like “Another Runaway General.”

“Another Runaway General” also highlights, if briefly, the false yet prevalent view of the Smith-Mundt Act. I want to thank World Politics Review for making my article on Smith-Mundt, “Reforming Smith-Mundt: Making American Public Diplomacy Safe for Americans,” available outside of their paywall to support the “Mind Games” article.

This post adds additional commentary that could not fit into the ForeignPolicy.com “Mind Games” article.

Continue reading “Holmes, Caldwell, Psy-Ops and the Smith-Mundt Act”

Civilian Response Corps: Smart Power in Action

imageThe Civilian Response Corps has a website: http://www.civilianresponsecorps.gov/. From the about page:

The Civilian Response Corps is a group of civilian federal employees who are specially trained and equipped to deploy rapidly to provide reconstruction and stabilization assistance to countries in crisis or emerging from conflict. The Corps leverages the diverse talents, expertise, and technical skills of members from nine federal departments and agencies for conflict prevention and stabilization.

We are diplomats, development specialists, public health officials, law enforcement and corrections officers, engineers, economists, lawyers and others who help fragile states restore stability and rule of law and achieve economic recovery as quickly as possible.

Visit the site and check it out. See the below links for previous discussions on CRC and the State Department Coordinator for Reconstruction & Stabilization (S/CRS):

Mind Games: Why Rolling Stone’s article on the military’s domestic psy-ops scandal gets it so wrong

Mind Games: Why Rolling Stone’s article on the military’s domestic psy-ops scandal gets it so wrong” by Matt Armstrong at ForeignPolicy.com, published 1 March 2011.

 

Rolling Stonehas done it again with another scoop by Michael Hastings showing the U.S. military’s manipulation of public opinion and wanton disregard for civilian leadership. Thearticle, “Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators,” is another example of an officer corps run amok, right?

Not so fast. Both stories expose an altogether different problem once you cut through the hyperbole.

A related post is here.

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.

Continue reading “Revising Information Operations Policy at the Department of Defense”