Center for Strategic Communication

Today, Walter Pincus’ Washington Post column explored the effect of the new U.S. Army Field manual on Inform and Influence Activities (IIA). IIA is essentially a rebranding of the prior term Information Operations (IO) with a bit of tweaking. As the military has been on the forefront of countering and confronting violent extremism since 2001, it should be no surprise to anyone that it been giving more attention to the use of communication as an element in its strategy. However, exactly what that strategy is, and exactly who should be performing and coordinating it is incredibly confusing.

Looking at some of the definitions within DoD’s effort to influence populations, we begin to see why there are problems.

According to Army Field Manual 3-13 (25 January 2013):

Inform and influence activities is the integration of designated information-related capabilities [IRC] in order to synchronize themes, messages, and actions with operations to inform United States and global audiences, influence foreign audiences, and affect adversary and enemy decisionmaking [sic].

Information-related capabilities [IRC] are capabilities, techniques, or activities employing information to effect any of the three dimensions  [cognitive, informational, and physical] within the information environment to generate an end(s). Designated information-related capabilities that support inform and influence activities (IIA) and its lines of effort typically include, but are not limited to, public affairs operations, military information support operations (MISO), combat camera, Soldier and leader engagement, civil affairs operations, civil and cultural considerations, operations security (OPSEC), and military deception.

According to an earlier version of the manual (28 November 2003), which employed the term Information Operations:

 Information Operations – The employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological operations, military deception, and operations security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to affect or defend information and information systems, and to influence decisionmaking.

According to Joint Publication 3-13 (27 November 2012):

Information Operations – The integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.

fm3_13_Page_01Confused yet? These definitional differences, disagreements about who does what, and overlap, coupled with lack of true coordination within DoD on this matter are detrimental to the potential for success.  Interestingly, “public affairs” is now included as an IRC—a change which actually makes sense. But throw in elements like “operational security,” as an “Information-Related capability” and it’s no wonder there’s confusion as to who is supposed to be doing what.

To clarify Pincus’ implication that the Army has developed “Military Information Support Operations” (MISO) units—MISO in itself is merely a rebranding of Psychological Operations (PSYOP). However, MISO does employ Military Information Support Teams (MISTs) comprised of regional experts with language proficiencies. To a large extent, these MISTs seem to be the most engaged in what are traditionally viewed as public diplomacy activities, operating out of embassies in conjunction with public diplomacy efforts in non-warzone countries.

As IIA is essentially about shaping the actions that a target audience takes through the use of communication or activities, the type of definitional confusion within DoD seems superfluous and detrimental. Ultimately, IIA is about influencing that target audience to undertake decisions that help the military achieve its strategic objective. That in itself is nothing new.

DoD needs to truly take this issue seriously, and the problem of definitional changes mixed with seemingly unrelated activities serves to cloud the matter to the point of being ineffective. Regardless of resources, if DoD can’t internally explain a simple concept, how can it conceptually be expected to influence people towards its goals overseas?

ASP will be exploring this topic in-depth in the coming months.