Information operations

The US Government Needs It, They Just Don’t Know It

Information (Photo credit: heathbrandon)

Yesterday Government Executive published an article titled Think tank seeks new federal office to counter extremist ideology, by Charles S. Clark.  In the article Doug Feith and others called for an office to be established that counters extremist ideologies.  That’s nice, guys.  You’re taking on less than 1% of the world, causing countless resources to be devoted to a tiny problem while the other 99% of the world is told to go and play in the street.  Go, kid, you’re bothering us. Great way to win friends and influence enemies, eh?  Not.

Two good friends of mine, Dr. Dan Kuehl and Dennis Murphy, have written an article, which we are waiting to be published, which calls for a national information strategy.  In my humble words there are four elements of national power, encompassed in the acronym DIME.  That is Diplomacy, Information, Military and Economy.  We have a Department of State for diplomacy, a Department of Defense for the military and multiple Departments of Treasury, Commerce, etc, that handle the Economy.  But we have nothing for information.  Information is the glue that affects everybody and causes effects, like Arab Spring. Without a national information strategy and without a coordinating office we have wildly disparate efforts which frequently go awry.  This causes the United States to look inept, foolish and dysfunctional.  It truly is a national travesty of epic proportions, the government is aware they have a problem, they just don’t know why.  This is why, ladies and gentlemen.

I am in deep discussions about this at this very moment.  A former government official deeply involved in this issue basically said ‘who cares, let’s drink a beer and ignore the problem’.  I basically said ‘if you ignore the problem you’re part of the problem’, but I only hope I made sure it was not taken as a professional
insult.  This is all in the context of a not-for-attribution forum I help run.

Basically an office to coordinate the information flow out of the United States is necessary, everybody admits as much. The Department of State, however, thinks they can run it, but when offered the mission, they accept but don’t (can’t?) really do the mission.  The Broadcasting Board of Governor does its own thing, jamming their fingers in their ears and they merrily do their job, spreading the news into denied areas (they’re an independent agency, don’t forget). The Department of Defense DOES the job, only because they have the money and the manpower and State can’t (and won’t), but DoD doesn’t want to do the job. The NSC handles small problems and doesn’t really want to coordinate a national systemic problem.

It has been 13 years since the United States Information Agency, or USIA, was dissolved as a consequence of the end of the Cold War peace dividend.  State has almost publicly admitted they have abrogated their responsibilities but I can get 20 experts to say they have.

The issue, really, is not to create such an office, entity or an organization.  The problem is to get the United States Government, especially the White House (most importantly the National Security Adviser), to truly understand this organization is needed.  Whoever can crawl inside the National Security Adviser’s mind, who in turn will brief… whoever, is a truly wonderful person.  Allow a national information strategy to be written.  Establish the organization.  Get the key individuals in place and we’re talking about an entity that can touch literally billions of people.  The basic concept is not difficult, the execution, however, is truly difficult.

The key to all this is convincing “the powers that be” that information is the glue, the ammunition and the catalyst for energizing the US Government to become an efficient, effective and powerful leader in the world that we envision and this office will help us work towards that end.

Without this, we will continue to be a government of ad hoc, piecemeal and fragmented little efforts.  We need an information strategy. I know the people who can write one and pull this office together, including me.  We have the team.  Call me, maybe?

4 thoughts on “The US Government Needs It, They Just Don’t Know It

  1. I want in! After my very brief stint in the military, I was not ready to give up on protecting the USA. The more I studied history, international relations, political strategy, and COIN, the more I realized that where we lacked was in our information strategy, and the more I realized it was the cause for a lot of our short comings at home and abroad. I’m no ‘pro’, but I can see it as clear as day. That is why I embarked on this road less traveled with no regard for its dismal job opportunities, it is a job that must be done. As an ‘informed’ citizen of this country, its quite embarrassing to see ourselves as the nation leading the charge in the Information Age only to be held back by our poor use of information. So I ask, what can I do to make this happen?

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