Academic journal article Military Review

Army IO Is PSYOP; Influencing More with Less

Academic journal article Military Review

Army IO Is PSYOP; Influencing More with Less

Article excerpt

THE PURPOSE OF this article is to briefly examine some of the root causes of the ongoing fracture of Army information operations (IO) in general and the dysfunctional friction between IO and the various Army agents of influence, in particular psychological operations (PSYOP) and public affairs (PA). The article will provide an overview of Army PSYOP today and possible constructs for tomorrow, suggest steps to mitigate friction or fracture between the sub-elements of IO to assure a greater unity of effort, and recommend the development of a strategic communication framework built on media and broadcast expertise secured by a culturally attuned and regionally aware cadre of professionals.

In both war and peace, success in the battle for hearts and minds hinges primarily on one side's ability to operate comfortably in the other side's human terrain. In such an emotionally charged, competitive communication environment, the ability to affect the psychological and informational battlespace of the adversary and the local population depends on the credibility of both the message and the messenger. Historically, the Army's PSYOP branch has been the U.S. military's principal foreign communications agent of influence. Using words and symbols, Army PSYOP has coordinated and executed influential actions and information programs specifically aimed at affecting foreign perceptions, behavior, and thought processes for over half a century. As a result, Army PSYOP as an institution has long consisted of a career force specially trained and equipped to formulate and conduct operations to inform and influence while using ideas and images to shape an adversary's attitudes and perceptions.

PSYOP has subscribed to the rule that words alone are not the only motivator of changes in perception, attitude, or behavior. Moreover, psychological operations are coordinated to synchronize with the influence potential of kinetic actions or the intended effects of the more deliberate and obvious military activities.

Apart from PSYOP, the U.S. military has, over time, developed an array of agents of influence with (non-kinetic) niche capabilities that also shape the perception and decision making of foreign neutral, friendly, and adversarial target audiences. These agents include specialists in deception operations, computer network operations (CNO), operations security (OPSEC), and electronic warfare (EW), as well as other related activities, to include civil affairs (or civil-military operations), and PA.

In the 1990s, the Army introduced a new functional specialty: IO. Ostensibly, the IO career field was created to better organize and integrate the aforementioned disparate agents of influence, which were widely perceived to be operating more or less independently and without sufficient integration and synchronization into an overall operational planning and execution scheme. Regardless of good intentions, IO has struggled to establish a legitimate presence in the Army and is still in the process of defining its mission and role within the context of planning, organizing, and conducting coordinated military information operations. Additionally, during this difficult developmental period, IO has generated a great deal of friction between itself and the various agents of influence, which have well-established, clearly defined, and fully integrated roles in force protection, information management, public communications, and so-called influence operations. (1)

Distinguishing between IO and PSYOP Roles

Army IO doctrine (as defined by the Combined Arms Center [CAC], Fort Leavenworth, which is currently rewriting it) and joint doctrine describe IO as the integrated employment of the core capabilities of EW, CNO, PSYOP, military deception, and OPSEC in concert with other specified supporting and related activities (such as civil affairs, PA, Combat Camera, and, when appropriate, combat operations). (2) The collective purpose of IO synchronization is to inform, influence, deter, degrade, deny, or disrupt adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own. …

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