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How Best to Discuss a Whole of Nation Approach to Information Activities?


English: ASCII to Binary encoding of the word ...
English: ASCII to Binary encoding of the word “Wikipedia” in SVG Text (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What are logical ways for us to discuss what we do?  That question alone raises a ton of questions.  Who is we?  What is it we do?  Who does what?  Can something fall into multiple categories?

Now that IO has a new definition, there is no longer a clear cut way to divide up the parts.  My friend and mentor, Dr. Dan Kuehl, invented a model I like to use, called the Three C model. ‘What we do’ can be divided into Connectivity, Content and Cognitive.  I’m going to paraphrase below, probably badly, so please excuse me for not reproducing his highly refined explanation.

  • Connectivity is the how information is passed from Point A to Point B.  This may be a broadcast message over FM radio, it might be via cyber in an email, it might be by fax, telephone, television, even the spoken word from your mouth to my ear.
  • Content is how we put the message together, what is contained within the message or what is shown, heard or even felt, tasted or smelled.  In Afghanistan there is a low literacy rate, so more pictures are used.  This may also be a narrative, what words we use can also be less or more dependent on culture, history, religion and a myriad of other factors.
  • Cognitive is how is the message received and then internalized by our audience.  I prefer to use Measures of Effectiveness as part of my initial planning process, so when planning and then conducting the rest of an information operation we can better measure the efficiency of our campaign.  My friend Dr. Lee Rowland uses the principle of “Under what conditions will a certain behavior change”, which is more difficult to determine but offers a much more refined approach and ensures cognition and efficiency of messaging is both easily measured and determined.

But IO cannot and will not work without including the rest of the government, not in peace, crisis or even war.  I recently sat down with some friends and we discussed information operations at a higher level, at the governmental level.  In the US the Department of Defense does IO, the Department of State is in charge of Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy, but I was having problems describing a “whole of government” approach, and I was having even more difficulty explaining how a “whole of nation” effort might be divided.   We finally came up with five categories for what I might call government/corporate/private information activities.

  1. Information Operations.  The integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own. This will include Department of Defense, to include Cyber Command and the CIA.  Most important about this category is these are the only entities that may conduct offensive operations; they can break things.
  2. Strategic Communication & Public Diplomacy: SC: the synchronized coordination of statecraft, public affairs, public diplomacy, military information operations, and other activities, reinforced by political, economic, military, and other actions, to advance U.S. foreign policy objectives.  PD: communication with foreign publics to establish a dialogue designed to inform and influence.  SC/PD would also include “liberation technologies” or ways to bypass, circumvent and/or thwart blocking, filtering and jamming by authoritarian governments.  This will include the Department of State, the BBG and others as identified.
  3. Information Research and Analysis.  Data, information and intelligence collection, reporting by all media, analyis, editing and publishing.  This will include reporters, editors, intelligence collection, intelligence analysis and publishing.
  4. Technical Innovation.  How we communicate information.  This includes cyber, communication means of all types, and efforts of assuring information and managing risks related to the use, processing, storage, and transmission of information or data and the systems and processes used for those purposes.  This will include information assurance, cyber defense and research and development efforts for the storage and transmission of information, broadcast, satellite, telegraph, even semaphores. This includes DISA, corporate and private R&D efforts.
  5. Information Infrastructure Assurance.  Efforts to protect government, corporate and private infrastructure from natural and manmade threats to critical, corporate and private infrastructures.  This would the Department of Homeland Security and other efforts to protect critical and private infrastructure.

The problem I seem to have is categorizing military public affairs, I might have to change the name to military information activities or some such generic name.  Many Public Affairs officers seem to believe they can inform without influencing.

I am also not certain how to include discussions on content, such as a narrative.  Cultural, religious and historical considerations also may be discussed.  Where would they fit in?

I also can’t forget methodology of efficiency, how do we determine Methods of Effectiveness.  Once again, the voice of my friend and mentor, Dr. Dorothy Denning reminds me of this important consideration.

If I take a whole of nation approach then I should include marketing, public relations, perception management, reputation management and strategic communications (with an s).

What have I missed?

What are your suggestions for better divisions and inclusions?

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6 thoughts on “How Best to Discuss a Whole of Nation Approach to Information Activities?

  1. The core problem now and in previous efforts is still the same. Who determines the information. What you describe is already happening and has been for the last century perhaps more. Unfortunately the message(s) are not clear and usually slanted (tainted) by the issuers.

    1. Yes, sir. Agreed, noted, understood. What I’m trying to do is find a common sense approach to this and then help guide the conversation. There is a method to my madness…

      1. Joel,

        The US is a microcosm, Australia is a microcosm, Europe is a microcosm. The world no longer has defined boundaries but myriad diffeneces within thes spheres. Perhaps a systems approach to diversity and then, the ‘things’ that devide. What is a clear message that would appeal to everyone as a base. If you were an alien of superior intelligence who ‘took pity’ on our planet, what would your message be to help?

  2. Thank GOD the five component definition of IO is gone. It created HUGE problems. I’m looking for ways to break what we do collectively so that I might use those as rough parameters for future discussions. A lot of what I’m working on hinges on simplifying this into bite-sized pieces, then enabling discussions drilling down into the fine points. I’m in touch with a lot of seniors. This will all make sense in the not-so-distant future.

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