Information operations

Trans Regional Web Initiative Survives Congressional Assault


Tom Vanden Brook, a USA Today reporter, wrote here that a bill by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif failed by 238-135, after a damning and damaging GAO report.

English: Official portriat of US Rep Jeff Denham
Official portrait of US Rep Jeff Denham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here were the actual words in the NDAA, source:

SEC. 343. LIMITATION ON AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS FOR TRANS REGIONAL WEB INITIATIVE (TRWI).

None of the funds authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2014 by section 301 for operation and maintenance, Defense-wide, may be obligated or expended to continue the Trans Regional Web Initiative (TRWI).

I sent a netcall (the military equivalent to “calling all cars”) to my professional friends and colleagues, as well as Tom Vanden Brook at USA Today and Craig Whitlock at the Washington Post.

The websites targeted are here:

  1. infosurhoy.com – Targets audiences in Latin America and the Caribbean (SOUTHCOM)
  2. centralasiaonline.com – Focuses on Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan (CENTCOM)
  3. al-shorfa.com – aimed at the Persian Gulf States (CENTCOM)
  4. mawtani.com – aimed at Iraq (CENTCOM)
  5. setimes.com or Southeast Times, a news and information site covering Southeast Europe (Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, English, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish) (EUCOM)
  6. magharebia.com – targets the northern tier of Africa – Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Libya and Algeria (AFRICOM)
  7. khabarsouthasia.com – in English, Bengali and Urdu (PACOM)
  8. khabarsoutheastasia.com – in English and Bahasa Indonesia (PACOM)
  9. sabahionline.com – Sabahi Online, targets Horn of Africa – Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya and Tanzania (AFRICOM)
  10. agorarevista.com – focused on Mexico (NORTHCOM)

As of right now I seem to missing one website, one that is the responsibility of NORTHCOM. I have confirmation the site exists, I just don’t know the URL.

 

Also reputedly targeted were these military to military exchange magazines:

  • Diálogo (SOUTHCOM)
  • African Defense Forum (AFRICOM)
  • Asia-Pacific Defence Forum (PACOM)
  • Agora (NORTHCOM)
  • Perconcordium (EUCOM)
  • Unipath (CENTCOM)

Surprisingly, I got responses and a ton of information from Tom Vanden Brook, Craig Whitlock and several Psyop (MISO, I know) friends and colleagues. but not from OSD(P).

I began researching this material even before I knew it was up for a vote, I guess fate is a fickle lover. Take the first six websites I listed. According to a document, “U.S. Government Counterterrorism: A Guide to Who Does What“, the first six sites cost $10.5 million dollars in 2010. According to Mr. Vanden Brooks article, “ten” sites cost $19.5 million. That’s one heckuva price increase!

NORTHCOM has a website which should be included on this list but I’ll be darned if I can find it. According to “Pentagon as Pitchman” report by Russell Rumbaugh and Matthew Leatherman of the Stimson Center here, the website exists. I’ve independently confirmed it exists, it’s in support of their Regional War on Terror (RWOT) program, but I don’t know very much about it..

The TRWI program is not to be confused with the VOICE program:

  • Operation OBJECTIVE VOICE – Africa Command,
  • Operation EARNEST VOICE – Central Command
  • Operation ASSURED VOICE in European Command
  • Operation CLEAR VOICE in Northern Command
  • Operation RELIANT VOICE in Pacific Command
  • Operation SOVEREIGN VOICE in Southern Command

I must voice my disgust for the use of ‘propaganda’ by Mr. Vanden Brook in his article. The two of us recently sat down together and I explained the definition of propaganda (there is none, but it’s like porn, you know it when you see it). I actually started building a collection of propaganda for demonstration purposes. According to Dr. Steven Luckert of the US Memorial Holocaust Museum, propaganda is roughly based on facts or stereotypes which are distorted to support an extreme ideology (I’m grossly paraphrasing). These sites, however, post “fair and objective” articles from legitimate news sources.

Representative Denham also believes the websites are too costly. Pardon me, Mr. Denham, have you ever run a professional website? I have an it is frigging expensive, time intensive and in this case, very, very well done on all these sites. I actually visited every single one of them today and they’re all very good. No, Mr. Representative, the idea, again to paraphrase, is to build a website that, over a long time period, establishes itself as a legitimate and accepted source of fair and objective information. This way the people in the focus area know they can go there for good information and make informed decisions. If you pop up a website when a crisis begins it appears suspicious and the people have no faith in its legitimacy. WAY too often, very young IO folks think they can just pop up a website and make the target audience BELIEVE in their cause.

My next points and they’re nit picky: “that such websites have the potential to unintentionally skew U.S. policy positions or be out of step with U.S. government efforts in a particular country,” a quote by unnamed “some State Department Public Diplomacy officials and senior embassy officials”. First of all, it shouldn’t be a quote if it’s a conglomeration of statements, especially by unnamed multiple sources. Second, the word “potential” is used, the same as I have the potential to be a gigolo, a thief, or an assassin, but I am none of the above. The last thing about this sentence is that this is the point of central planning and decentralized execution – you must train, then trust but supervise and verify. When the US military began allowing hundreds and thousands of webpages to be built, those lessons were learned the hard way. State Department has the same solution, not everything is approved by the Secretary of State, the authority has to be delegated down the chain.

“Denham had hoped to kill the program so that the Pentagon “would be able to more effectively resource its core mission: building a force that can fight and win our nations wars. I suggest you sit down and learn the fundamentals of Information Operations. I have a 30 hour IO course standing by, but I’ll give you a two hour basic lecture if you want to learn what IO really is and what IO is capable of (please excuse my grammar). Tell you what, I’m giving that talk tomorrow at the DC campus of Bahçeşehir University, why don’t you stop by? 10 am, don’t be late!

Update: Apologies to the Congressman.  I mistakenly wrote he had no military service whereas he served 16 years in the USAF.

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6 thoughts on “Trans Regional Web Initiative Survives Congressional Assault

  1. Hey big time website researcher – Denham served 16 years in the Air Force. It’s all there on his House website Denham.house.gov. Maybe this is proof why these government sites are crap. Clearly your research is.

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