Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Information Strategy: The Missing Link

Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Information Strategy: The Missing Link

Article excerpt

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Success will be less a matter of imposing one's will and more a function of shaping behavior.

--Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates (1)

IO is dead! Long live IO! After 13-plus years of infighting, programmatic protectionism, general angst over who owns what, and turf battles with its new sibling the cyber community, a new draft doctrinal definition of information operations (IO) is now working its way through the Pentagon. Unlike previous definitions that centered on what things IO owns (the "pillars" and later the "core capabilities" of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological operations, military deception, and operations security), the new definition omits such lists, focusing instead on what IO does. (2)

Information operations are "the planning and integrated employment of capabilities in the information environment across the phases of joint military operations." (3) This new definition avoids the major pitfall of its predecessors--a rice-bowl approach that actually discouraged integration of efforts. But this article is not about whether that new definition is right, or even good. It is about how the door is now open for a fresh look at an even more significant issue.

The world of IO has always had a weakness: the endless doctrinal debate about "who owns what" has distracted from useful discussion on how to orchestrate those pieces to actually accomplish something--in other words, strategy. Just what are the ends, ways, and means of IO, and how do we align them to defeat an enemy? The Department of Defense (DOD)--in fact, the U.S. Government as a whole--desperately needs a construct for designing interagency offensive information strategy that will enable leaders to employ the information element of national power in military operations. To build one, we first look at where current thought on "information power" is lacking. Then we walk through the elements of an IO strategy. The desired ends are unexpectedly simple: either adversary behavior has changed, or further resistance is impossible. Then we use a new construct for binning the means: hard and soft tools. Finally, we bridge the gap between those two with the ways--using the soft tools to influence, and the hard tools to disrupt, enemy action. We start with some basics.

Information Power

While information power is well accepted as one of the four elements of national power, neither the term nor the concept appeared in the 2006 National Security Strategy. It is strangely absent from the "full array of political, economic, diplomatic, and other tools at our disposal" that is the basis of the document. (4) Nor does information power appear in the 2008 National Defense Strategy. (5) Moreover, although there is no vetted definition of information power, the concept is understood and the link to how the military should exercise it is obvious: information operations. Considerable attention has already been given to the "defensive" side of the information domain. (6) What is still lacking is the offense.

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The problem with the current IO model is that it fails to orchestrate the tools of information power toward a common goal. One reason is that the legal and bureaucratic limits on who can do certain things have caused an almost irrational phobia against integrated efforts. For example, fear of cross-contamination of public affairs (PA), public diplomacy (PD), and strategic communication with psychological operations (PSYOP) actively opposes effective coordination of these obviously interdependent tools of information strategy.

Similarly, while military doctrine does recognize the existence of tools such as PD, it essentially stiff-arms them: "Their primary purpose and rules under which they operate must not be compromised by IO." (7) In this way, current doctrine only guarantees that whatever plan comes out will lack interagency collaboration--the recipe for strategic failure. …

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