Fighting the War of Ideas; Congress Leans toward Unilateral Disarmament in Info Ops

Article excerpt


Information operations are known by many names - public diplomacy, strategic influence, political warfare - but the purpose is the point. It's vital for America to advance national security by changing the way people think about our country and challenging the negative messages spread by our adversaries.

For the past several years, the Defense Department has assumed the leading role in information operations. This is a development that has upset some members of Congress. The House Appropriations Committee has slashed by half the almost $1 billion defense information-operations request for 2010. The balance is frozen until the Pentagon reports to Congress how it has spent its funding in this area since 2005.

In the House Appropriations Committee report on defense appropriations for fiscal 2010, it was asserted that the Pentagon is exceeding its usual roles and missions, that the approach goes far beyond a traditional military information operation. Yet these are not traditional times. The war on terrorism has compelled the Defense Department to come to grips with a quickly evolving assortment of unconventional challenges. Under these circumstances, traditional approaches not only are inadequate to this task but also are dangerous.

American counterinsurgency doctrine recognizes the centrality of information operations to success in unconventional war. They are necessary to build confidence in the legitimacy and capabilities of friendly governments; obtain local, regional and international support for U.S. efforts; publicize the depredations of our enemies; discredit insurgent propaganda; and provide a more compelling alternative to attract the support and commitment of the local population. In wars of perception, these missions are as important as combat operations, if not more so.

The Defense Department has brought energy and innovation to the information-operations mission, mostly out of necessity. Other agencies are not getting the job done. …