Adm. McRaven Defends U.S. Information Operations Overseas
The House Defense Appropriations Committee last week voted to cut $81.5 million from the Pentagon's $251.6 million request for military information support operations (MISO) aimed at generating support overseas for U.S. activities. Critics say that the Defense Department has done a poor job of quantifying results of such efforts.
But SOCOM Commander Adm. William McRaven said that MISO programs, now being audited by the Government Accountability Office, are essential tools that in many ways can help prevent serious conflicts. The commander said he is one of many officials working with lawmakers to explain to them exactly what these operations can do for the military.
But it has been difficult to break through the misconceptions, he said.
“There is some baggage that comes with information operations. There is this belief that it is psychological operations, that we are somehow conducting . . . nefarious operations to influence people and frankly that's not the case,” McRaven said. “Military information operations are about the truth. It's about putting the truth out there.”
Army special operators describe MISO as the use of persuasion to influence perceptions and encourage desired behavior. Soldiers assigned to these tasks communicate information to large audiences through radio, television, leaflets and loudspeakers. During Desert Storm, these operations led to the surrender of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, officials said. MISO relies “on logic, fear, desire or other psychological factors to promote specific behaviors,” according to an Army special operations recruiting website. “The ultimate objective of [MISO] is to convince enemy, neutral and friendly governments, forces and populations to take actions favorable to the United States and its allies.”
SOCOM works hand-in-hand with the State Department and local populations in particular countries to make sure “we are putting out the right message,” he said. The message may be about stopping corruption or AIDS prevention, but it always is based on truth, he said.
“I just think we have to get that message to Capitol Hill and make sure they understand the true nature of MISO operations,” McRaven said. “I think they'll come around.”