Information Flow

/ October 5, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Washington Post last week ran a good piece on the Pentagon’s use of information operations in Iraq. The story is based on a contract awarded last month to four public relations firms. Under the contract, the Post reports, the companies are charged with producing “media campaigns” that cast U.S. objectives in Iraq in a positive light and convince residents of the barbarism of the insurgency.

The application of information operations during future wars likely will be near the top of the agenda for the new defense leadership. The field is considered key to irregular warfare, which many defense officials believe to be the predominant type of conflict facing America in the foreseeable future.

An August draft version of a yet-unreleased policy directive governing IW says information ops are crucial for neutralizing “adversary propaganda” during Iraq-style counterinsurgency campaigns, as we reported in September.

Exactly how this should be done isn’t all that clear yet, according to experts and officials, who say some thorny issues remain to be resolved.

For example, one question is who should be in charge of conducting information operations. “IO authorities have been a subject of much contention from the outset over a decade ago,” one expert writes.

While the authority to employ IO initially rested solely with the “national command authority,” which consists of the president and the defense secretary, the combatant commanders were given more power over IO some years ago, this expert said. “Now ((it is)) a bit of pulling and hauling, with many hoping a balanced result will ensue.”

There also were instances of friction among the COCOMs themselves, we’re told. One official described a “food fight” breaking out at one point over operational control of IO forces and equipment between U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Central Command as part of the military’s “Countering Adversary Use of the Internet” program.

That program targets the online propaganda efforts of violent Islamic extremists, we reported last month.

In that context, the now-declassified Rumsfeld-era information operations roadmap, from 2003, remains a great read.

-- Sebastian Sprenger