A (R)Evolution in Public Affairs at the Defense Department?

As I wrote over a week ago, Price Floyd, formerly of (wait for it) the Center for a New American Security (surprise!), is the new Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (P-DASD) for Public Affairs. Price has a deep appreciation for proactive public diplomacy, so his interview with Donna Miles of in-house publication DefenseLink is not really surprising:

So one week into the job as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, Floyd is taking a fresh look at traditional public affairs and strategic communications practices with an eye toward making them more responsive, more relevant, more inclusive and more transparent.

For a long time, the new technologies represented little more than “a better bullhorn” to broadcast the Defense Department’s messages to more people, Floyd said. “But now, that’s changed,” he said. “It’s not just better one-way communication; it’s better two-way communication. It’s not just us reaching people; it is them reaching us, too.”

There’s a lot in what Price said in the interview. Many of his sentiments go against deeply held beliefs, practices, and in many cases, training of public affairs. Ignoring the ability of virtually anyone to inform and mobilize global audiences for good or for bad surrenders the most important terrain of modern conflict: the mind that in turn influences the will to act.

Price has his work cut out for him.

Here are a few changes I’d like to see:

  • Dump the public affairs mantra “inform but not influence”
  • Make PA more proactive and “preactive” as it is a critical part of the global chess game that is the struggle for minds and wills
  • Adopt the proposed definition of propaganda recommended by Price’s predecessor (same for strategic communication which is redefined in the same document)