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Paratrooper Overwatch II

ADM McRaven on MISO

Admiral McRaven addressed Congress to speak to growing Congressional concern about the money being spent on military information support operations (MISO), formerly known as psychological operations (PSYOP).  

The article says that critics of MISO have charged that DOD has done "a poor job of quantifying results," but if anything MISO tends to err in the other direction.  The MISO process includes a mandate to design measures of performance (MOP) and measures of effectiveness (MOE) alongside every product, and in the final stage -- stage VII -- there is an evaluation process that is heavy on quantifying the pre-agreed MOE/MOP.  Products are sometimes subject to focus groups and other similar tests, providing a great deal of quantificational data.  I would say that the focus on MOE may even be a little too strong, although one reason that there is such a strong focus is that MISO/PSYOP have always been subject to complaints of this type.  They are very keen on demonstrating that their products do have an observable, achieved effect.

I don't know anything about Leonie, and I've never worked with them or their people, but I know quite a bit about how these programs worked in Iraq.  We used them for a lot of different purposes.  Admiral McRaven mentions the operations that were used to instruct Iraqi troops in how to surrender at the start of the war.  We used leaflets to explain to pilgrims heading to Najaf and Karbala what the warning signs were for a suicide bomber, or that a vehicle was likely to be an IED.  We put photos of criminals with big rewards on leaflets and then heavily distributed them in areas as a kind of nonlethal terrain denial -- even if you were pretty sure that the neighborhood supported you, you'd have to be more cautious in moving around with all those reward posters. 

We used them to explain what we were doing and why we were doing it, so that the population would understand a little more and fear a little less.  We used them to help cut down on the risks to civilians, as by warning them not to let their children approach our convoys to avoid them being caught by bombs meant for us.  We used them to mark the points of origin for incoming fire, so that civilians in the area would know not to hang around there lest they risk counterfires.  We helped them understand what was coming down the road in terms of how the process of rebuilding was going, and how they could take advantage of the work our Civil Affairs teams and our embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams were doing.  

We also let them know how they could warn us about insurgents in the area.  Our Tactical PSYOP Teams would meet with people face to face, all through the district, to talk with them and come to understand how they were feeling and what their concerns were.  

Admiral McRaven points out that MISO is "about the truth.  It's about putting the truth out there."  All of those things mentioned above were about the truth.  

Nevertheless, there are some forms of deception operations that -- under tight controls -- do occur.  The most famous one is probably Operation Fortitude of WWII.  Still, the things that Congress is worried about are not deception operations at all -- they are operations that are truthful in nature.  The information provided is accurate (at least, the unit creating the products believes the information is accurate -- fog of war, and all that).  

This is a very important set of skills that is crucial especially to counterinsurgency warfare.  Congress has a legitimate oversight role here, but I hope they will take the admiral's advice with great seriousness.  He is exactly right on this subject.  As long as we are still fighting in Afghanistan, we need to ensure that there is adequate support to MISO.