When information can travel globally at the tap of a finger, irregular warfare professionals must contend with an ever-changing environment. How does strategic messaging tie into operations on the battlefield? How can we build a more information-savvy force? And how can information act as both weapon and warfighting space?
Episode 36 explores how information, and a lack of consistent understanding of what that entails, shapes the modern strategic environment. Our guests begin the discussion with a look at roles within the information sphere and argue that the US government does not uniformly define information and messaging within its many entities, including the Department of Defense. They continue by arguing that DoD has a key role to play in the information space but may not be the best-suited organization to take the lead role, and that important lessons can be learned from nongovernmental organizations and corporate actors. They conclude by stating that the information space is not well understood, is under resourced, and is poorly utilized at a strategic level, and in order to grow within this space irregular warfare professionals must think into the future and drive the narrative instead of reacting to adversary narratives.
Dr. Raphael “Rafi” Cohen is the acting director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program of the RAND Corporation’s Project AIR FORCE and a senior political scientist at RAND. He works on a broad range of defense and foreign policy issues, including defense strategy and force planning, Middle East and European security, and civil-military relations. He previously held research fellowships at the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute and the National Defense University’s Center for Complex Operations.
As a military intelligence lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, he has held a variety of command and staff positions in both the active and reserve components, including during two combat tours in Iraq. He holds a BA magna cum laude in government from Harvard University and an MA in security studies and PhD in government from Georgetown University.
Mr. Brent Colburn is currently the senior vice president for external relations and communications for the University of California (UC) system. He has spent the past two decades working in mission-driven organizations, including stints in higher education, philanthropy, and government and on numerous political campaigns. Immediately before joining UC’s senior leadership team, he served in a similar role at Princeton University, where he was responsible for the storied university’s communications and stakeholder engagement efforts.
Mr. Colburn served in a range of leadership roles across the Obama administration, ending his service in the executive branch as the assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs. He has also served as the chief of staff at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, and the director of external affairs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He has also worked on multiple political campaigns and served as an adviser and board member for a number of nonprofits.
The Irregular Warfare Podcast is a collaboration between the Modern War Institute and Princeton University’s Empirical Studies of Conflict Project. You can listen to the full episode below, and you can find it and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, TuneIn, or your favorite podcast app. And be sure to follow the podcast on Twitter!
Image credit: Amy Walker, PM Tactical Network/PEO C3T Public Affairs (US Army)
We’ve struggled and experimented with this at MCTOG and continue to try to ways to tie Effects in the OIE dimensions (Physical Information and Cognitive) to scheme of maneuver at the conventional tactical level. Our USMC IO pub recommends “Objectives” as the means to do so but a good portion of the staff here, and our Ops and Intel Os and Chiefs that come through our courses, seem best able to tie OIE effects to scheme of maneuver with a Known mechanism – the Essential Fires Support Task (EFST) in the Task Purpose Method and Endstate.
We emphasize setting a foundation by Orienting on the Thinking Adversary for OIE and Friendly COADev with most of our time spent on Adversary Model and >2x Adv COADev. What weve done in the battlespace that the Adversary can then See what we want, Think (and Decide) to Do what we want them to do. We then tie in Single Battle Concept and Battlespace Framework to understand scope, intent, and Endstate we are tying their FrCOAs towards. Very few can break down the essential elements and critical variables of complex networks, friendly adversary or neutral, to understand the possible 2nd and 3rd order effects to truly engage networks let alone get them to maneuver on their adversary in the cognitive realm. Unfortunately for maneuver warfare and warfighting it’s rarely cut and dried — to struggle is the way.
Purpose and Endstate (time place and most essential how the effect ties to Endstate and Commanders Intent for said Op) being the most important of their design for scheme of maneuver inside the COA. Task being an idea that gets solidified by the OIE and FSC/FECC as the entity in charge of Fires and Effects across echelon (for the Marine Corps anyway).
Opinions vary on if that’s the right entity, but until a better case is made, as the tactical agency where kinetic and non-kin fires are levied it makes the most sense for Marines.
The OIE planner inside the FSC/FECC or the specific enabler being the one that provides and or refines the Method and Task respectively. Knowledge of capabilities being a challenge on the user GCE side and sometimes rightfully so, being protected behind classification so users don’t know ‘what’ they’re asking for nor the time it takes for most OIE effects to come into play.
Either way getting folks to study this art of war by getting repetitions across different problem sets with these Abstract Concepts. Hands on reps through Active experimentation leads to more tangible Experience that they can Reflect on (both pro and con) to solidify for future use.