Information Operations doesn't do IO
Mr. Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone Magazine, coupled with information provided by LTC Michael Holmes (an Information Operations Officer assigned to the 71st Theater Information Operations Group) created a maelstrom of confusion and misinformed discussion regarding two related -- and yet distinct functions within the United States Army.
Information Operations and Psychological Operations are not the same. They are often incorrectly labeled as synonymous, but this due to a fatal flaw in the Army Staff Structure - not because of doctrinal misrepresentation. This article will serve to demonstrate the misunderstanding and attempt to clarify some roles and responsibilities.
It is necessary to highlight that currently the within the "Information Realm", the United States Department of Defense is undergoing a period of transformation, restructuring, and redefining its doctrine. As such, much is open to interpretation until doctrine is updated and disseminated throughout the Army and the Joint Force.
While this article is not an attempt to attack LTC Holmes, or diminish the credibility of Mr. Hastings, it will address the arguments and evidence presented by two misinformed individuals and shed some light on the necessity of Military Information Support Operations (formerly known as Psychological Operations).
Joint Publication 3-13, Information Operations provides the following description: "Information operations (IO) are described as the integrated employment of electronic warfare (EW), Computer network operations (CNO), psychological operations (PSYOP), military deception (MILDEC), and operations security (OPSEC), in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own". (US Department of Defense, 2006)
Information Operations (IO) is, at the core, a synchronizing staff function that does not actually create deliverables -- aside from analysis and assessment. As a synchronizing staff section, IO Cells are supposed to assess the capabilities and employment of the core functions, ensure that information fratricide is not occurring, and synchronize efforts throughout the entire battlespace.
While the definition of each core capability could be addressed, this article will provide explanation of Psychological Operations, now referred to as Military Information Support Operations (MISO) as defined, and offer an explanation as to why this may be misconstrued as Information Operations.
Psychological Operations are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. The purpose of psychological operations is to induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to the originator's objectives.
PSYOP is the most visible producer of products, actions, and themes for the Information Operations Cell. Due to the word "influence", there is always a concern associated with PSYOP that something sinister is afoot. PSYOP programs, themes, products, and actions must all undergo a specific development process in order to anticipate the outcome, achieve the desired behavior change, and reach the objectives listed by the Commander.
In order to conduct PSYOP, you have to have a PSYOP Planner present on a staff, period. Information Operations Officers gain an understanding of the capabilities of PSYOP units through courses such as the Psychological Operations Integration Course, but this does not qualify them to plan PSYOP. Additionally, attendance at this course should not be used as a shroud of protection that prohibits an IO Officer
The unfortunate association between PSYOP and IO lies on the fact that Headquarters Staff Sections for Information Operations (G7) has a permanent staff Officer, who is an Information Operations Officer (Functional Area 30). By training and by specialty, he is not an expert in the core capabilities -- he is a generalist. This allows him to effectively understand and employ the experts of the capabilities in order to achieve effects.
Information Operations have related tasks as well, including Civil Military Operations (CMO), Defense Support to Public Diplomacy (DSPD), and Public Affairs (PA). As a related task, Information Operations can lend support when needed and should be closely de-conflicted. By doing so, an Information Operations Officer ensures consistency in message efforts and prevents information fratricide.
Civil Military Operations efforts are essential to Information Operations related capabilities. CMO sets the stage for interaction with a host nation population, are often exploited by Public Affairs, and require operational support. IO assists in coordination and synchronization by ensuring the correct level of asset is appropriated to support CMO.
Public Affairs is related to IO by sharing a common linkage to the information environment. While PA activities are not exclusively designed to influence an identified target set; rather their intent is to inform and allow an audience to draw their own conclusion. However, Public Affairs cannot be discounted as a viable influence in the battlespace and is a dominant force in the electromagnetic spectrum. IO and PA coordinate to ensure consistency of message efforts, reduce redundancy, and capitalize on resources.
Defense Support to Public Diplomacy are those activities and measures taken by the Department of Defense components to support and facilitate public diplomacy efforts of the United States Government. JP 3-13 states much of the operational level IO activity conducted in any theater will be directly linked to Public Diplomacy objectives. DSPD requires coordination with both the interagency and among DOD components. Department of Defense Directive (DODD) 3600.1, Information Operations outlines responsibilities of combatant commanders to plan Information Operations, ensuring that the larger communications objectives are met.
The headquarters of NATO Training Mission -- Afghanistan (NTM-A) would be definitively interested in guaranteeing that their objectives were nested with Public Diplomacy goals. Charged with the responsibility of building capacity within the Afghanistan Security Forces, they would receive interest and questions from Congressional Delegations.
LTC Holmes has posited that, he received an order that in effect "targeted" visiting American dignitaries. While the content of the order is unknown, and wildly disputed, suggestions that his actions and participation were non-doctrinal and illegal are without merit. Based on Annex B of Joint Publication 3-13 - what he was asked to do, and further told to do, can be discerned as a capability of Information Operations. Figure B-3. Support Roles of Information Operations highlights the linkage between the capabilities and functions.
Michael Hastings, accompanied by the information provided by LTC Holmes, suggests that there was a deliberately planned effort to change the behavior of visiting dignitaries. I beg to differ, that without a certified Psychological Operations Planner available, LTC Holmes was straying into a lane that he does not fully understand and overestimated his capabilities and training.
In order to accomplish what LTC Holmes suggests, it would require more than his "IO Skillset"; it would require assets, time, and an objective specified in the Operations Order. Aside from coordinating training, LTC Holmes did not have the assets available to conduct what Mr. Hastings alleges occurred. To suggest that this activity occurred is a stretch and completely irrelevant to the true nature of LTC Holmes desired outcome by providing information to a sensational reporter.
Information Operations are all about consistency of messages, clarity of truth, and management of expectations inside and outside of a headquarters. Unfortunately, this includes the political landscape -- which requires monitoring and the development of assessments are a required output.
Had this Information Operations Field Support Team had a greater clarity of their roles, requirements, and responsibilities (and true masters of doctrine); they would have been able to make recommendations that would have enabled the entry of IO capabilities to the training mission. Instead, it appears that they were naysayers and cynics, which amplified tensions and caused undue stress in already charged and intense environment.
In conclusion -- Information Operations elements do not "do" information operations. Information Operation does not do Military Information Support Operations, either. They coordinate and synchronize efforts to meet a Commander's intent and meet his information effects requirements. This implies that they conduct analysis, make recommendations, and provide the commander with the best information available based on their expertise and clear understanding of the core capabilities.
MisoMan is a trained Soldier in the Art of Influence, known as Military Information Support Operation (MISO). He has experience at the Tactical, Operational, and Strategic levels of influence, including support to Joint and Interagency elements. MisoMan is not a representative of the Department of Defense or the United States Army; rather -- he is voice of clarity, interpretation, and truth. The opinions located within this paper are solely his.