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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part V


Chapter 14


The Battle of Ideas

The record of the US Army in the battle of ideas during OIF has been mixed. Perhaps the biggest success has been the use of embedded reporters. A reasonable balance between operational security and media access seems to have been reached after decades of contention since the 1970s. Embedded reporters almost without exception provided accurate news and followed operational security requirements. Their reporting was also generally positive and with a balanced view showed the American people what their Army does in conflict. Nearly every segment of the US population, as well as political leaders from local to national levels, has remained solidly in support of the Army’s Soldiers regardless of their support for operations in Iraq. The Army should work harder with media outlets and journalists, however, to reap the benefits of embedded reporting in full spectrum campaigns like OIF. The complex and often frustrating nature of these operations requires better understanding and communications on both parts.

The Army has not been as successful with its information operations (IO) or public affairs (PA) operations in Iraq. A military force must never underestimate the importance of IO, particularly during Phase IV of a campaign. The proper personnel and plans should be in place before Phase III begins so IO can be used to set the conditions for the inevitable transition. IO considerations should also be made an explicit doctrinal part of all postconflict operations. During the planning process, thought must be given to the potential positive outcomes that can be exploited, and to potential mitigation measures should the operation cause unintended negative effects. Most Army units in this period of OIF have already learned the importance of this practice.

The Army should exploit the IO potential of civil affairs (CA) projects to a greater degree. Simply doing “good things” for the host nation is not enough; those good things must be quickly and widely made known among the general population. Every Army unit at battalion and higher levels must have an organic IO capability. The Army must “grow” officers and NCOs with IO education and experience during peacetime; IO skills are not quickly learned or mastered. The CTCs and the BCTP should make these operations part of every exercise. The rank structure of staff officers in PA, psychological operations (PSYOP), CA, and IO cells in higher-level commands should be examined to ensure those disciplines are properly represented in planning and in operations. The Army placed responsibility for IO doctrine and training on the Combined Arms Center in June 2005, and in December 2005 the US Army IO Proponent (USAIOP) office was created. As of this writing, the best way to organize the work of various IO activities, PA operations, and strategic communications and effects within Army units and commands continues to be debated.6

The intellectual firewall between PA and IO must be restored and maintained. The distinction often made between “white” and “black” special operating forces and their missions may be useful in the case of PA and IO. If the spectrum of IO runs from PA and truth telling, to military deception and falsehoods, or from white to black, then the line beyond which PA personnel are allowed to operate must be well short of where that spectrum begins to blur into gray. The credibility of the Army requires that its PA personnel and pronouncements are known to be accurate and truthful. If a commander decides to synchronize efforts by uniting the PA and IO functions under a common staff element, such as an office of strategic communications, then the commander and his strategic communications advisor must preserve the integrity of the PA part of that office.

Chapter 14. Implications

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