Outsourcing the fight to counter misinformation

Briefly, success in the contemporary conflict environment, counterinsurgency or otherwise, depends on winning the struggle for minds and will. In this, information must conquer information. Perceptions must be met not by brute force, but the psychological equivalent. In Iraq, IO is being outsourced to private firms to bring support in the informational battlespace. From PRWeek:

The US military expects to hire a firm to provide “information operations” support in Iraq to counter insurgent misinformation tactics. The bids were due on Friday, August 22.

Army public affairs officer Paul Boyce said the reason for the RFP is primarily the military's need to counter misinformation spread by hostile parties. Stopping rumors is a particular need for the Army, but finding out about those rumors is difficult if the language and culture of the area of operations is not well understood.

“We've had an insurgent population that has sought to kill our soldiers,” Boyce said. “By communicating with people in Iraq in as many ways possible what we're trying to do to help them, and what we're trying to do to prevent people from using these ruthless roadside bombs that blow up people in streets, in schools and mosques, we find that a very important thing.”

Work for the account involves a wide range of communications activities, including monitoring and analyzing Arabic and Western media; spokesperson training; and development and dissemination of TV, radio, newsprint, and Internet “information” products, according to the RFP, originally issued by the Department of the Army's Joint Contracting Command in late July.

The minimum amount for the one-year contract, with two, one-year options to renew, is set at $250,000, and the maximum amount is $300 million.

Boyce noted that while the US military has gone to considerable effort to train soldiers in Arabic languages and improve their understanding of local culture, development of that sort of knowledge takes so much time and effort, and the need is so great that contractors are simply needed to meet the demand.

“Oftentimes, outside contractors bring outside talents or abilities, or previous experiences that might not necessarily be readily available within the government,” Boyce said. “Or they can bring a dedicated resource to the task [that might] already be used elsewhere within the government.”

As described in a “statement of work,” provided by the department of Multi-National Force-Iraq called Strategic Communications Management Services, insurgents in Iraq have sought to discredit US and allied forces, as well as the Iraqi government, through various means, including psychological warfare, terrorism, murders, and other “asymmetric” means intended to counter the US allied forces' stronger military.

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The ripple effect from insurgent use of improvised explosive devices in Iraq intended to kill and destroy Coalition forces and equipment is severe. Recording and branding the attacks for global distribution as marketing vehicles of not only David versus Goliath imagery but to gain support against their peers is secondary, or even tertiary to their strategic impact. The strategic value of IEDs to the insurgent is the psychological insecurity they create by inducing a negative spiral in training, techniques, and procedures that goes against the requirements for effective counterinsurgency. The deployment of armored Humvees and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs) was indicative of the reduced trust of the indigenous population. The resulting withdrawal from the “sea of the people” by Coalition forces severely undermined counterinsurgency efforts as the increased distance between the indigenous population and the warfighter “actually assists the enemy in accomplishing his objectives.”