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PUBLIC AFFAIRS

by COL Ron Williams, Public Affairs Officer, Third U.S. Army, and
MAJ Craig A. Triscari, Commander, 13th Public Affairs Detachment, Ft Hood, TX

"Every senior leader must personally set the example by taking a proactive rather than reactive approach to dealing with the media."

Gen. Dennis J. Reimer
U.S. Army Chief of Staff

As experienced during contingencies such as Operation DESERT SHIELD/STORM, Operation RESTORE HOPE, and Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR, the emergence of the information age and rapid growth in the number of media outlets has resulted in unprecedented numbers of media representatives covering stories. Operation DESERT THUNDER was no exception to this growing trend. Effectively managing external and internal information requirements was vital to the success of C/JTF-KU.

Doctrine Base

Multinational operations are nothing new to the Army. One recent example is Bosnia. We learned that in dealing with a multinational force we must follow certain principles. FM 100-8, The Army in Multinational Operations, cites political considerations as the single most important factor in multinational operations. It becomes imperative that the nations choose a spokesperson from each organization to speak with one voice. This will reinforce their unity of purpose.

Unlike a joint operation, every coalition force enters into the partnership with its own national interests. As a result, it is equally important that a mutually agreed upon end state be clearly defined. Public affairs guidance must enhance the relationship between the countries. FM 46-1, Public Affairs Operations, addresses how information release authority and procedures must be agreed on by coalition members to avoid any conflicts and delay.

Organization

The C/JTF-KU commander, Lt. Gen. Tommy R. Franks, was responsible for public affairs matters pertaining to assigned forces within the C/JTF-KU area of responsibility. The C/JTF-KU PAO was the commander's advisor for public affairs matters and the primary military spokesperson for the operation for all services and coalition nations in Kuwait. The C/JTF-KU PAO reported directly to the C/JTF-KU chief of staff while providing a communications and coordination link to the CENTCOM Public Affairs Office.

A Coalition Information Bureau (CIB) was established in the Sheraton Hotel in Kuwait City through the Kuwait Ministry of Information, U.S Embassy and its U.S.Information Services (USIS), and in coordination with the Kuwait Director of Moral Guidance and Cultural Public Affairs (the public affairs office of the Kuwait Armed Forces). The office was comprised of representatives from the United States, Great Britain, and Kuwait - all coalition forces that had public affairs assets in country.

The C/JTF-KU PAO maintained daily coordination on all media activities and public affairs events through close interface with key players in the region. Included in this group were the U.S. Embassy, USIS, and the Kuwaiti Minister of Information and Director of Moral Guidance. These representatives are the critical links in making sure that mission success is accomplished during any operation in Kuwait. They are vital players in response to all news media queries. It was imperative that the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information, in coordination with the U.S. Embassy, led in registering and validating all news media representatives that entered the AOR.

The following chart depicts the C/JTF-KU PAO organization during Operation DESERT THUNDER:


Figure 1

Local units deployed with extensive embedded news media. If a media member is embedded with a unit, it means they operate directly with that unit. They can be selected for embedding at Home Station or in the theater of operation. DOD may direct that units make room on deploying aircraft for them.

When journalists, military or civilian, operate in a media pool or as embedded media with a deployed unit, they fall under certain guidelines and have certain obligations to fulfill. (See Appendix, copy of Directive CJS 18, May 1990, from General Colin Powell.) Because of limited military resources such as transportation, journalists operating under a media pool status are required to share their information with other media outlets.

Commanders develop ground rules for the media so that sensitive information is not released. The journalists understand the sensitivity of operations, especially if they are taking part in them. Commanders must understand that there are not enough PAOs to accompany all the journalists and must be prepared to meet media needs. In any case, the military has an obligation to support journalists selected for these missions.

Media Board

The C/JTF-KU PAO conducted meetings with unit representatives at least twice weekly to distribute public affairs guidance and to plan media visits and events. Two-way communication was very important during these public affairs planning boards; units outlined their training schedules, and requests for visits by the media were programmed. This forum effectively ensured all coalition members were "speaking with one voice" and were receiving an equitable amount of external and internal media coverage. These media opportunities were then provided to the CIB for coordination with the media.

Lessons

  • Ensure the host nation is tied into your framework. Host nation sensitivity is critical to the "one voice" concept.
  • The CIB must be tied into USIS and must assist the U.S. Embassy on media events and activities. This includes assisting in escorting media during visits by distinguished dignitaries.
  • A public affairs liaison officer stationed at the Embassy or an embassy liaison officer located at the CIB is recommended to close the loop on information flow.

Personnel

Because today's news media is capable of deploying to the theater very rapidly and possibly sooner than the advanced party, it is imperative to get into country quickly. When tensions with Iraq began, ARCENT Public Affairs took the lead before the crisis reached a boiling point by identifying six Army Reserve public affairs personnel from the 318th Press Camp Headquarters, Forest Park, Ill., for deployment to Kuwait to assist in establishing the CIB. When Saddam Hussein's antagonistic approach toward the United Nations inspectors went too far, these public affairs assets, along with a senior officer from ARCENT Public Affairs, deployed as part of the ARCENT advance party - prior to most of the media. This proved critical as the media's initial story focused on the first arrival of deploying forces into the region.

Concurrent with the buildup, ARCENT Public Affairs worked with FORSCOM to arrange for the ARCENT Public Affairs staff to be augmented by personnel from Fort Drum, N.Y., Fort Hood, Tx., Fort Bragg, N.C., Fort Carson, Co., and Fort Huachuca, Az. In addition to the six Reserve Component soldiers manning the CIB, Army Reservists from the 318th Press Camp Headquarters and a member of the Alabama National Guard agreed to deploy on temporary tour of active duty (TTAD) status to Kuwait to assist the ongoing effort. Additional command information support was also provided by two public affairs detachments (PADs) from the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

Further support was provided to the C/JTF-KU when a four-soldier element from the 3rd Infantry Division's Public Affairs Office was deployed to ensure that quality subordinate public affairs support to ground forces was available. The Air Force also dispatched two public affairs officers from CENTAF to provide liaison with Air Force units. As Marine forces came ashore and were TACON from NAVCENT to the C/JTF-KU commander, Marine public affairs assets also arrived as part of C/JTF-KU operations. Constant coordination was also ongoing with critical Navy public affairs assets from NAVCENT located in Bahrain. The entire contingent of public affairs forces, composed of the Army, Air Force, Navy, and combat camera teams that were deployed to provide historical documentation during Operation DESERT THUNDER, included 44 public affairs personnel.

Lessons

  • Prior to Operation DESERT THUNDER, there were no public affairs assets in Kuwait except for a PAD to support the INTRINSIC ACTION rotation. An additional PAD was deployed during off-cycle INTRINSIC ACTION rotations to serve as the forward-deployed PA contingency cell and to provide internal coverage of permanent party personnel assigned to Camp Doha.
  • To maintain a forward public affairs presence following Operation DESERT THUNDER, ARCENT obtained CENTCOM and U.S. Embassy approval for a public affairs officer to be assigned to ARCENT-Kuwait. These reserve officers rotate every 120 days.

Strategic Planning

As outlined in FM 46-1, public affairs strategies link the national and coalition strategic goals and operational objectives. In conjunction with guidelines from the National Command Authority, Department of Defense, CENTCOM, Department of the Army, and the C/JTF-KU commander, the building blocks necessary to develop and implement a successful C/JTF-KU public affairs program supporting the strategic goals of our nation can be formulated. In final form it becomes the public affairs annex to the operations plan and serves as the framework for developing public affairs guidance (PAG) for the operation.

These strategies must be formulated early in the operation to establish public affairs policies; identify issues likely to be of interest; delineate the coalition's perspective and themes; and to establish the method, timing, and authority for releasing information to internal and external audiences.

During Operation DESERT THUNDER, the C/JTF-KU public affairs officer established what he believed to be one of the most important issues to be communicated to the force. This was the PAG covering guidance from General Zinni, CENTCOM commander, and guidance from the C/JTF-KU commander, Lt. Gen. Franks. In order to ensure a "one-mission, one-word" concept, the Public Affairs Office developed a strategy chart (Figure 2). The chart listed the mission, strategic goals, and tactics to be used and messages to be conveyed to the audience.


Figure 2

Lessons

  • Higher headquarters must develop PAG guidance early. Media strategy must be incorporated by non-PA personnel, easy to understand, and unclassified.
  • Do not overload your capabilities to put something down on paper. Make a determination on what is important and then prioritize. Make sure the commander agrees on the strategy.
  • Ensure the host nation, the American Embassy, and all key public affairs players both up and down the chain of command are aware of your strategy to avoid conflict with their issues or concerns.

Media Relations

More than 1,000 news media representatives from 60 countries covered Operation DESERT THUNDER from Kuwait. The host nation Ministries of Information and Defense and the U.S. Embassy accredited news media representatives in the AOR. The news media representatives were provided ground rules at the CIB in return for military accreditation, support, and access. They were highly competitive and sought access to virtually every area of C/JTF-KU operations to report events as they happened.

Local units deployed with extensive embedded news media. For example, the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) had the following news agencies embedded with them: USA Today, Army Magazine, The Savannah Morning News, The Georgia Guardian (Savannah newspaper), CNN, WTOC-TV (CBS-Savannah), WGNX-TV (CBS-Atlanta), WAGA-TV (Fox Atlanta), and Soldiers Radio and Television.

Units provided or coordinated use of government transportation to and from the theater of operation, concurrent transportation on military vehicles once in-theater, use of military dining facilities, billeting, military uniforms and protective gear, and access to unclassified communications facilities to file stories.

Each journalist was responsible for obtaining a valid passport with appropriate visas and medical inoculations, and were required to sign an Embedded Media Agreement that was provided to the C/JTF-KU PAO and CENTCOM PAO.

Lessons

  • Organic public affairs assets were inadequate to support the high level of media interest and large media presence in the area of operations. The augmentation discussed in the personnel section enabled the C/JTF-KU to execute its media relation's mission.
  • Unit public affairs offices must train their subordinate units on "Media on the Battlefield." Training should include what to do when the media calls and how to support embedded media prior to the onset of contingencies.

Equipment

One of the most critical parts in establishing a C/JTF-KU is ensuring there is sufficient office equipment and supplies and other equipment to successfully execute the command information mission. This is vital as increased mission requirements always necessitate additional public affairs assets, including personnel, vehicles, and equipment. Equipment to execute the media and command information plans was insufficient and had to be ordered. Computers and equipment for command information coverage (video and still cameras, editing cells, tripods, televisions, and video recorders) should be prepositioned to be used in case of a crisis. This works well for the combat support and combat service support units and could have had the same effect on deploying PADs and public affairs soldiers during Operation DESERT THUNDER.

Lessons

  • Establish prepositioned equipment in the region to allow units to respond more rapidly to the crisis. Significant prepositioned assets include video cameras, editing suites, automation equipment, fax machines, fixed and cellular phone communications, electronic mail, copy machines, printing contracts, etc. Equipment items such as cellular phones, mobile radios, computers, printers, fax machines, and copiers must be procured in advance of most sections. The public affairs mission is the first battle the commander will face in contingency operations. Shaping the media battlefield will require commanders to provide these priority assets to public affairs operations immediately upon arrival in-theater in order to be successful in accomplishing the mission. Contracts for additional computers and other basic automation needs can be procured once in-country. This will ensure that the public affairs operational assets and the CIB receive the most current automation equipment possible. Plan to grow a larger force and the associated support as the operation dictates.
  • Prepositioned equipment allows public affairs personnel to begin working with the early-arriving media without concern about resources.
  • Vehicles and facilities should be marked for public affairs to support contingency operations.
  • A central facility with significant telephone access, electrical power availability, and room to accommodate a significant growth of personnel must be established very early in the planning and implementation phases of the operation.

Conclusion

Successful coalition/joint operations are directly related to proper planning and execution. It is vital that quick real-time PAG be provided to commanders at all levels that includes guidance from the National Command Authority and intermediate level commanders throughout the chain of command. This guidance must be relayed to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines as soon as possible. The guidance is essential for an effective public affairs program which outlines national policy and objectives.

The media plays an important role in society and is the central focus on how U.S. citizens are informed of military activities. If the military is to be successful during future contingency operations, it is imperative that it plans, trains, and equips public affairs soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines for success. The mission of public affairs is a commander's responsibility that is implemented through public affairs professionals.

Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are the best trained, best equipped, and most knowledgeable military forces in the world. Many members of the media have very little or no background in military operations and procedures. It is the responsibility of every soldier to never miss an opportunity to, in the words of the C/JTF-KU commander, Lt. Gen. Tommy R. Franks, "stimulate and educate the media in our craft and what we do."


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