Saturday, November 21st 2015
One of my goals as I post commentaries is to increase Public Diplomacy’s awareness of what our colleagues and counterparts in the armed forces are doing in information operations, strategic communication, public affairs, and military information support operations (MISO). Better awareness can foster alignment of effort, cooperation, and collaboration. Army Major General Christopher Haas, the Director of Force Management and Development of the U.S. Special Operations Command, provided an overview of staffing, training, and equipping of the Military Information Support Operations (MISO) force during his testimony before the House Armed Service Committee’s Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities on October 22, 2105.
Major General Haas’s review of the selection and extensive training (42 weeks!) of MISO personnel will be of particular interest, I am confident. So will his review of the internet, social media, and the technical capabilities of the MISO force.
As I learned during my assignments as a POLAD at the Pentagon, “one team, one fight.” Here are some excerpts from Major General Haas’s testimony that will likely interest Public Diplomacy people.
- . . . the extensive propaganda efforts employed by both the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Russian Federation make USSOCOM’s role in manning, training and equipping the MISO force even more critical.
- . . . there is considerable work remaining—particularly in improving our MISO force’s capability through training to counter our adversaries’ influence on the world-wide web which they . . . exploit.
- Overall end strength of the two active duty groups is 1051 officers and enlisted MISO Soldiers.
- In 2014, the United States Army Special Operations Command re-organized the United States Special Forces Command from exclusively manning, training and equipping Special Forces units to now include Civil Affairs and the two active duty MISO Groups.
- This streamlining of effort . . . . has already provided synergy to operations in AFRICOM, CENTCOM and EUCOM areas of responsibility, such as with operations against Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa where MISO, Special Forces and Civil Affairs elements have enabled partner nation efforts resulting in dramatic gains in combating this adversary.
[Selection and Training]
- Prior to any formal training, service members seeking to enter the MISO force undergo an extensive selection process — a process designed to identify those able to function under physical and mental stress.
- Assessment and selection is a ten-day process with eight selection cycles per year. All candidates are assessed against the core SOF attributes—integrity, courage, perseverance, personal responsibility, professionalism, adaptability, teamwork, and capability, as well as validated physical and mental occupational performance standards. All events are designed to measure specific attributes required to posture a candidate for success in the MISO field.
- Candidates are isolated and undergo both physical and mental stressors to measure problem solving abilities, resilience and stamina.
- Following selection into the MISO career field, our Soldiers attend a 5-phase, 42-week training program. This training includes extensive studies in MISO planning, linguistics, and cultural knowledge, interagency support, media development and dissemination, effective analysis and assessments and translator/interpreter management.
- The end state of the training pipeline is to produce a skilled MISO soldier capable of planning, executing and measuring MISO across the full spectrum of operations in all environments in support of joint, interagency, multinational or coalition operations. These soldiers are capable of operating in both technologically superior and austere environments. They are responsive and adaptive to asymmetrical challenges; adaptive and comfortable with ambiguity. They are culturally aware, regionally focused and language-capable.
- Two areas of this MISO training that differentiate them from other US Government capabilities are the focus on language and culture as well as a focus on influence principles.
- While it can be challenging to produce fluent language speakers in many of the more challenging languages, the benefits of understanding language and culture are critical in determining how a culture communicates or the value a culture places on relationships. These shared assumptions drive meaning within any group. Linguistic and cultural knowledge provide an insight which is critical to conducting effective influence operations.
- The extensive training that our Soldiers receive enables them to leverage the cultural nuances of influence. They learn when it is most appropriate to use an emotional appeal or a rational argument, what the best mix of media is to convey a certain type of argument, and what symbols are relevant in conveying the specific message. This training, combined with linguistic and cultural understanding, makes MISO a true SOF capability and a distinct asset within the Department of Defense.
- In regards to training volume, in FY14 and FY15, our training base has maintained an 80 percent graduation rate.
[The Web and Social Media]
- . . . our adversaries use the Internet to contact and recruit followers, gain financial support and to spread propaganda and misinformation. . . . we continue to adapt to emerging requirements. The current conflicts have identified that we have a need to continue expanding our MISO training, primarily with regards to the Web.
- This training will incorporate social media use, online advertising, web metrics, and web design, among many other topics. Such a training solution will also enable us to stop being so dependent upon a contracted solution.
- We have been upgrading our MISO production and dissemination capability continuously to meet the force’s requirements. We have a state-of-the-art Media Production Center at Fort Bragg, with the capability to provide for print, audio, and video product development.
- The Center also includes redundant archival features to preserve all past and current MISO planning and production efforts. Some of the current deployable equipment includes: the flyaway broadcast system, a radio, TV, and cellular broadcast capability, next generation loudspeaker systems, and an interoperable responsive short or long term mass printing capability.
- Some of the future capabilities we are in the process of developing are the distributable audio media system, a leaflet-like system with embedded pre-recorded audio and/or audio-visual messages, an upgraded version of the flyaway broadcast system mentioned earlier with a 97% size/weight reduction, and the long range broadcast system; a pod-mounted radio, TV, and cellular broadcast system on manned and unmanned aircraft allowing MISO message broadcast out to 100 miles.
- We are also in the process of testing an Internet Production Capability (IPC), which will be a fully integrated suite of work stations designed to perform web research, data capture, message product development, and web-based message delivery. The IPC will provide a secure means of navigating the Web, a means to conduct social media analysis, provide multiple methods to deliver online messages, and provide the ability to monitor real-time measures of effectiveness and adjust MISO programs/campaigns shortly after launching on social media.