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.

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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.

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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.

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Influence and Propaganda Conference

IandP Conference Sign The Influence and Propaganda Conference continues tomorrow. Today’s discussion was fantastic with valuable insights from Todd Helmus, Ted Tzavellas, Steve Shaker, Adam Pechter, Bryan Rich, Michael Dominque, Steve Luckert, Lee Rowland, Glenn Ayers, Glenn Connor, Tim Hill, Cliff Gilmore, and Al Bynum.

Tomorrow is another day beginning with a presentation by Brad Gorham. This is followed by arguably the best panel of the conference: the media panel co-chaired by Russ Rochte and myself. The panel will include Jamie McIntyre, Bill Gertz, and Wally Dean. Following this panel is Mahan Tavakoli, Nancy Snow, Mike Waller, Amy Zalman, Cori Dauber, Carol Winkler, and Jim Farwell. Friday, the last day, has Brian Carlson, Evan Mitchell Stark, Joel Weinberger, John Foxe, and Wil Cunningham.

The conference is presented by the IO Institute, in partnership with the MountainRunner Institute. The IO Institute will post a transcript after the event.

Follow (and catch up) on live tweets from the event with the hash tag #iandp.

Influence and Propaganda Conference this week

2010iandpadThis week is the Influence and Propaganda Conference in Verona, New York, outside of Syracuse. Put on by the IO Institute in partnership with the MountainRunner Institute, the conference will be a frank and open discussion on the nature, purpose and format of propaganda and activities intended to influence. This conference comes at a critical time as the volume and quality of disinformation and misinformation increases in an environment that empowers virtually anyone. The gatekeepers of yesterday, governments and major media, are increasingly bypassed, ignored, reactionary or co-opted as today’s information flows across geographic, linguistic, political and technological borders with increasing ease and speed.

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Life from inside the storytelling machine: an author offers caveats on influence tools

By Dr. Amy Zalman

The inside cover promise to "unveil the workings of a ‘storytelling machine’ more effective and insidious as a means of oppression than anything dreamed up by Orwell," was incentive enough for me to pick up and start reading the recent English translation of French writer Christian Salmon’s Storytelling: Bewitching the Modern Mind.  Even more compelling for this reader: the ‘storytelling machine’ in question is one that I have been working in for the last  five years, as a proponent of the use of narrative as a tool of influence in U.S. strategic communication. 

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Event: Information Operations, the New Frontier in Full-Spectrum Warfare

Information Operations: The New Frontier in Full-Spectrum Warfare is a continuing education course taught by Chris Paul through the Organizational Effectiveness Institute. It will be held September 20-21 in Washington, DC. From the course description:

Information Operations (IO), as currently practiced by the U.S. Military, encompass a broad range of capabilities designed to inform, influence, persuade, or deceive target audiences, and a collection of technical capabilities focused on impacting systems for storing or transmitting information. Formally, IO capabilities include Psychological Operations, Electronic Warfare,Computer Network Operations, Operations Security, and Military Deception. The relationships between the IO capabilities and other activities including conventional military operations, related and supporting capabilities, and strategic communication are not always well understood, nor are they optimally organized for specific undertakings. This class explores these relationships and presents clear definitions for all the elements as they appear in the formal doctrine, and as they function in practice. The implications of the different approaches are discussed in depth.
You will benefit by enhancing your understanding of the:
  • History and evolution of IO and its component capabilities.
  • Practice and the potential of IO capabilities.
  • Ways to organize IO and how these impact relationships between capabilities and operational effectiveness.
  • Power of information for influence in pursuit of campaign objectives.
  • Efforts related to IO, such as public affairs, strategic communication, and public diplomacy.

The course outline and online registration is available here.

Chris Paul is Full Social Scientist at the RAND Corporation, frequent contributor to MountainRunner, colleague, and author of the textbook Information Operations: Doctrine and Practice.

Strategic Communication & Influence Operations: Do We Really Get It?

imageStrategic Communication & Influence Operations: Do We Really Get It? by Dr Lee Rowland  & Cdr Steve Tatham, RN. published at Small Wars Journal.

The last 2-3 years have seen an explosion in interest in the application of influence as a tool for achieving military objectives. This is not new, the military have always sought to exert influence – albeit at times unwittingly. However, two significant events have brought the issue to further prominence – the publication of JDP3-40 and the deployment of 52 Brigade to Helmand Province in 2007/8. This article does not intend to debate either in any detail – a quick search of inter and intra nets will provide plenty of information for the curious reader – but there are two issues worthy of slightly more discussion.

The first concerns 52 Brigade’s deployment. When Brigadier Andrew Mackay led 52 Brigade to Helmand Province2 he did so having examined previous kinetic based deployments and concluded that these, for various reasons, had not achieved the effects that he envisaged for his mission. For him the consent of the population was utterly key and would not, nor could it, be achieved by hard power alone or even with hard power primacy; as he developed his operational design he felt frustrated that existing doctrine did not adequately prepare him to operate within the influence arena. The second is that Andrew Mackay subsequently became one of the driving forces behind JDP3-40 and in particular the forceful articulation of the ‘centrality’ of influence. However, the ‘how to do it’ guidance still lags behind the emphasis on and enthusiasm for, its use. …

This paper seeks to provide greater clarity in two key areas – Target Audience Analysis (TAA) and Measurements of Effectiveness (MOE). …

Influence has become the ‘must have’ accessory for the battlefield. Good. But think at how difficult it is to influence, say, your teenage kids, into a particular course of action. You know them. They have grown up in your house. You know the groups they belong to, their interests, their likes and dislikes. Yet as every parent knows influencing a 16 year old into a particular course of action can be difficult. Now apply this thinking to an Afghan whom you do not know, who has grown up in a completely different culture with different values and beliefs anchored in a wholly different world from our own. You want to influence them? Wow! This is hard stuff to do and whilst the UK’s capability and understanding has leapt forward in the last couple of years there is still much work to do – particularly in the reinforcement of TAA and understanding MOE. Above all else doctrine needs to manage expectations.

See also:

Psychological Operations by another name are sweeter

By Christopher Paul

Originally posted at Small War Journal. Reposted here by permission of SWJ and Chris Paul.

The Department of Defense has decided to change the name of military psychological operations (PSYOP) and this is a good thing.  I make this assertion despite concerns about the name change raised by others in this space (See The Branch Formerly Known as PSYOP and PSYOP: On a Complete Change in Organization, Practice, and Doctrine). 

Although most psychological operations are no more than messages and broadcasts aimed at changing the opinions, attitudes, or behavior of foreign citizens, officials or troops, they have come to have a sinister connotation in the minds of U.S. citizens and policymakers alike. The very term PSYOP summons dark thoughts of orbital mind control lasers, dastardly propaganda, or deception.

In truth, the vast majority of contemporary PSYOP are based on wholly truthful information. PSYOP personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan prepare air-dropped leaflets, develop posters and handbills, make radio broadcasts, and operate loudspeaker trucks. They carry messages ranging from what enemy soldiers should do in order to safely surrender (dropped as leaflets during the opening days of the war in Iraq) – to posters or radio spots with the phone number for a tip line Afghan citizens can use to report Taliban activity.  Changing the name of these useful efforts is good; eliminating the possibility of them including falsehood would be even better.

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Event: Influence and Fighting Propaganda!

The IO Institute, in partnership with the MountainRunner Institute, presents a conference on Influence & Fighting Propaganda on October 13-14 at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, NY.

The Information Operations Institute of the Association of Old Crows cordially invites you to attend a conference focusing on influence and propaganda.  Influence – what are influence factors, who can be influenced, how and why can people or groups be influenced, what are different approaches to influence and how is influence accomplished and how is it different at the personal level all the way to the national level?   Propaganda – what it is, enjoy a presentation of real examples of famous propaganda by infamous propagandists, discuss how we counter it, is it still going on today, how do we fight misinformation and how do we disseminate a meaningful message avoiding the label of propaganda?

On October 13 and 14, at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, NY. Check below for the agenda. Online registration will be available soon.

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