Carrying IO Outside the Bubble

NOTE: This article was originally published in the Fall 2008 edition of IO Sphere.

by Craig L. Prichard, Major, USAF

While non-kinetic targeting is well understood to those involved in IO, the benefits of this approach to warfare must extend beyond contemporary operators if it hopes to achieve legitimate status as a core military competency. Those involved primarily in kinetic activities will undoubtedly find little utility in exploring second and third order effects, as long as mission objectives focus on physical destruction and tangible BDA. The challenge to those services that have not committed to an actual IO career force is to propagate the fundamental utility of IO, and recognize areas for application outside normal constructs. A three year tour in a command that concentrates on providing non-kinetic options to COCOMs is insufficient to gain a full appreciation for the nuances this sort of warfare demands. This is even more exaggerated when transiting between assignments, where feedback from specific actions is immediate and transparent.

A key link in bringing a holistic approach to tactical operations is the intelligence personnel who are admirably tasked with spanning both worlds on a daily basis. Those with exposure to IO must be adept at translating effects to those audiences where discussions beyond physical destruction and collateral damage are foreign subjects. On a plate already filled with estimates, priority requirements, and nodal analysis, bringing IO “outside the bubble” requires an aptitude in another capability frequently associated with information operations: strategic communication. Regardless of one’s respective views on how SC fits into the overall context of operations, there is a concerted effort throughout DOD to improve efficiency and effectiveness of overarching themes and messages. This endeavor must be mirrored in the intelligence community to provide “transmission” experts capable of speaking to external audiences, or spectators raised on lethal approaches to warfare. The other vital networks necessary in the proliferation of IO’s inherent potency are the transients.

Once removed from an environment where influence and perception management are part of the vernacular, it becomes increasingly difficult to articulate the value of non-lethal actions. Suggesting that a new Ensign in a Prowler squadron receive indoctrination on the five core capabilities outlined in JP 3-13, is both unrealistic and unreasonable. Yet with a cursory knowledge of OPSEC and EW, he/she has at least a couple pieces of the puzzle. An Air Tasking Order or target folder no longer represents a simplified version of the commander’s intent, just as BDA is not a singularly inclusive measure of effectiveness. There are “takeaways” from every tour of duty, and as I head back to the USAF aviation community, I intend to broaden IO’s exposure to a diverse, yet distinctive congregation.

Armed with a modicum of fluency in SC, PSYOP, MILDEC, OPSEC, EW, and CNO, I feel well equipped to teach future generations of pilots and navigators that a “show of force” does more than disperse enemy personnel—and a JDAM drop leaves more than just a large crater in its wake. – CLP

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