Quotable: Ludes and Jacobson on organizing for information warfare
Saturday, January 28th 2017
It is possible that the State Department Global Engagement Center could provide a good model for the coordination, integration, and synchronization of messaging but it will require a focus beyond counterterrorism and a home that can truly have access to senior interagency leadership rather than being buried in the bureaucracy. In whatever form, the new capability must operate with the agility of a new-media start-up.
Authors: Jim Ludes and Mark Jacobson
Date: January 23, 2017
- In his first days in office, President Trump will be confronted by a diverse array of international communication challenges, including a sustained Russian political warfare assault against the West, Islamic extremist use of social media to recruit adherents and inspire lone wolves, and China’s meddling in the domestic politics of America’s closest allies.
- . . . there are a handful of ready options available to Trump today that would blunt the effectiveness of adversarial information campaigns and make the United States more secure.
- Effective political warfare requires two things: sound policy and effective coordination.
- During the Eisenhower administration, the Operations Coordinating Board, composed of deputies and a handful of other senior officials across the national security community, ensured that national security policies were effectively put into action. President Eisenhower’s Executive Order directed the OCB to, among other things, coordinate “the execution of each security action or project so that it shall make its full contribution to the attainment of national security objectives and to the particular climate of opinion the United States is seeking to achieve in the world…”
- The Reagan administration, in contrast, sought to deal specifically with the challenges of Soviet disinformation and created another small, interagency task-group: the Active Measures Working Group. . . . Their specific mission was to analyze and expose Soviet disinformation, including the “fake news” story that the AIDS virus was developed by the U.S. government as a weapon to target African-Americans and the homosexual community.
- Neither the OCB nor the Active Measures Working Group were large bureaucracies but rather task-built groups with small staffs designed to achieve specific effects in the fight against the Soviet Union and its ideology, exactly the type of agile organizational structures that could deal with an increasingly adaptable and complex set of ideological threats.
- Like their predecessors, the Trump administration must make a conceptual leap in terms of developing the apparatus and programs needed to combat the ideologically driven political warfare campaigns directed against our nation.
- First and foremost, there must be recognition that changing behaviors and attitudes in the 21st century requires policies designed for specific psychological objectives. This requires unwavering commitment to a proactive and strategic approach rather than a transactional and reactive one.
- Second, this approach requires interagency coordination and synchronization alongside significant autonomy within executive branch agencies.
- Specifically, the National Security Council should have a focal point on ideological and political warfare – much in the same way the Eisenhower NSC’s contained a Special Assistant to the President for Cold War Strategy. The incumbent in this position is not a policy czar focused on the tactics of engagement, but a master synchronizer.
- Third, while “USIA on steroids” makes for a good headline, the key is finding the right organization to meet today’s challenges.
- It is possible that the State Department Global Engagement Center could provide a good model for the coordination, integration, and synchronization of messaging but it will require a focus beyond counterterrorism and a home that can truly have access to senior interagency leadership rather than being buried in the bureaucracy. In whatever form, the new capability must operate with the agility of a new-media start-up.
- The challenges facing the West and the United States today are unmistakably ideological. Adversaries are peddling nationalism, the end of supranational organizations that impinge national sovereignty, religious extremism, and even separatism from California to Scotland to Okinawa—ideas that challenge the central tenets of the world created after World War II.
- Trump should respond, in the tradition of Eisenhower and Reagan, and organize his administration for political warfare.