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Reply #35: CorpWatch: The Booming Business for Psy/Ops [View All]

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Octafish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-09-06 12:16 PM
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35. CorpWatch: The Booming Business for Psy/Ops
Gee. Where have all the good ideas gone?

Like, "Freedom of Speech"?

US: The Booming Business for Psy/Ops

No one is sure how well psychological operations have worked in Afghanistan or Iraq, but that's not stopping efforts to step them up, using contractors to do it.

by Jason Vest, Government Executive
November 30th, 2005

From the State Department to the Pentagon, winning hearts and minds is an increasingly important element of U.S. national security strategy. But while Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes has been the highest-profile example of U.S. public relations in action, the Defense Department quietly has been tinkering with its own systems of overseas influence.

Among these are psychological operations, or PSYOPS. But after-action reports on the invasion of Iraq are skeptical about PSYOPS' success, and a psychological operations unit in Afghanistan recently tried to "demoralize" the enemy by desecrating Islamic corpses. Questions about these matters have led some policymakers to wonder how enhancing PSYOPS will complement other elements of military information operations, such as public diplomacy and public affairs. In addition, increasing reliance on contractors to conduct these operations is raising eyebrows, especially because the contract prices aren't small and some firms hired have murky pasts.

Psychological operations, defined by the military as the "systematic process of conveying messages to selected foreign groups to promote particular themes that result in desired foreign attitudes and behaviors," traditionally have been the nearly exclusive purview of the 4th PSYOPS Group (Airborne) of the Army's Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the military services have shown renewed interest in mass persuasion. For example, two-and-a-half years ago at Fort Bragg, N.C., the Army unveiled its Special Operations Forces Media Operations Complex, a 51,756-square-foot facility replete with all the tools 4th PSYOPS requires - printing presses, studios and digital audiovisual production facilities - in the service of producing materials to win hearts and minds wherever the U.S. military finds itself in the world.

Col. James A. Treadwell, the 4th's commander, said at the time that the facility's opening "marks PSYOPS as a growth field." But PSYOPS had entered a boom phase well before the new complex's ribbon was cut. From the post-9/11 involvement in Afghanistan to the end of what have been termed "major combat operations" in Iraq, Army PSYOPS units produced a deluge of media, including but not limited to 150 million flyers and leaflets and more than 20,000 radio broadcasts in Afghanistan and Iraq. And in the wake of Baghdad's collapse, there was a tremendous sense of satisfaction that a virtually uninterrupted flow of PSYOPS material had played a critical role in hastening the almost anticlimactic end of Iraq's military.

But when the Army's mammoth Operation Iraqi Freedom lessons-learned report was published in 2004, it revealed that PSYOPS weren't all they were cracked up to be. Part of this had nothing to do with quality; some PSYOPS units had been incredibly useful, but failed in their duty as "force multipliers" simply because there weren't enough of them. This was hardly surprising, as PSYOPS accounts for only 4,800 soldiers, 76 percent of whom are reservists. But the report also concluded that, for reasons that had nothing to do with numbers, PSYOPS simply hadn't had as profound an effect as some had thought. Not long after the lessons-learned report, the Pentagon's Defense Science Board - echoing an earlier Defense Planning Guidance report and a somewhat neglected 2003 Pentagon "Information Operations Roadmap" - concluded that when it came to conception and coordination of strategic communications, including PSYOPS, the military's efforts had languished. The board strongly endorsed a number of nascent structural and philosophical efforts at Defense and elsewhere to win a global battle of ideas.


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