A MISO specialist assigned to 307th Psychological Operations Company, and an interpreter (second from the left) teach English to Afghan National Army soldiers on Combat Outpost Sayed. U.S. Army photo.

The future of MISO

By Col. Curtis Boyd
Originally published in the January-February 2011 edition of Special Warfare

In 2005, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked whether the term psychological operations, or PSYOP, still had utility in the information age. His point was that the information age posed many branding challenges for PSYOP that adherence to the code of conduct and the Army values simply could not overcome. Earlier this year, absent any improvement in brand image, Admiral Eric Olson, commander of the United States Special Operations Command, directed that the term PSYOP be changed to military information-support operations, or MISO.1

But the simple name change can neither eliminate the association of PSYOP with its pejorative predecessors — propaganda and psychological warfare — nor correct the contemporary perception of PSYOP as potentially underhanded and unethical. It is possible, however, that a better appreciation of the historical baggage might lead to a more complete understanding of the challenges facing the MISO force and its future.

This article will offer a review of PSYOP's history; take a brief look at definitions; show the relationships of PSYOP to public affairs, or PA; information operations, or IO, and public diplomacy, or PD; and suggest new ways we might think about PSYOP (now MISO). Although PSYOP has been repeatedly misunderstood and misrepresented, MISO, as a means of informing and influencing foreign audiences, remains as relevant in peace as in war and as vital to our nation's defense as ever before. This discussion is intended to create a dialogue that may generate solutions to many unresolved issues and serve as the beginning of a more comprehensive vision and mission of our MISO force and its function.

Pejorative past: the truth

The documented history of PSYOP begins with the World War I activities of its antecedent, propaganda.2 In World War I, PSYOP "came into its own as a formal activity," said retired Colonel Frank Goldstein.3 During that period, the three shades of propaganda — white, gray and black — appeared in a variety of unclassified and classified government programs aimed at motivating popular support for the war and demoralizing the enemy. It is important to understand that as propaganda moves from shades of white to black, the source of the propaganda becomes less obvious, until, in black propaganda, the source is unknown.

The most memorable and successful World War I white-propaganda themes communicated that the war was necessary to "keep the world safe for democracy" and that it would be "the war to end all wars."

Ultimately, the propaganda campaigns waged by the U.S. and its allies also had unintended consequences. On occasion, propaganda waged at home exaggerated the truth to such an extent as to be construed as disinformation. The deceptiveness of those tactics almost eliminated our government's credibility, even among sympathetic U.S. audiences. For example, rumors of the Germans making soap out of dead bodies at the "Corpse Conversion Factory" only temporarily aroused war fervor and later aroused suspicion of U.S. government information.4 By the end of the war, the American public had become indifferent to rumors and disinformation.

During World War II, the U.S. adapted its organizational structure to make the newly named psychological warfare, or PSYWAR, more acceptable. As in World War I, white propaganda still aroused popular support for the war effort, but it was placed under the control of the War Advertising Council. The more sensitive shades of gray and black propaganda were handled separately by the Office of War Information, or OWI.

The War Advertising Council organized corporate sponsorships and facilitated partnerships with the media and various advertising agencies to increase popular support for a variety of government programs ranging from the census to the draft. Its successor, the Ad Council, is notably remembered for some of America's most famous icons and catch phrases: Smokey the Bear, McGruff the Crime Dog and "Friends don't let friends drive drunk."5

Meanwhile, the OWI, with its subordinate Psychological Warfare Division, focused its propaganda efforts on confusing, delegitimizing and demoralizing foreign enemy audiences. Understanding the public's sensitivity to black propaganda, the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, took control of those programs, which were eventually assimilated by one of the OSS's successors, the CIA.6

During World War II, both white propaganda and the full-spectrum propaganda of PSYWAR gained a respectability that World War I propaganda had not. Its use continued during the postwar reconstruction era as consolidation propaganda (similar to today's MISO support to stability operations). Despite the precipitous postwar decline of staff expertise in Washington, D.C., PSYWAR and propaganda teams remained active in many headquarters in European and Pacific theaters.7

At the time, the prevailing opinion was that PSYWAR's ability to influence foreign audiences exceeded the boundaries of combat and the tactical battlefield, and that a more expansive definition and operational construct were needed. Understanding the limitations of PSYWAR and the need to communicate U.S. goals and objectives to foreign audiences, President Harry Truman's administration viewed the job as one not exclusive to the military. To provide a capability for conducting peacetime propaganda and to oversee the standing-down of the War Department's OWI, Truman established the Interim International Information Service, or IIIS, within the Department of State. Soon the Office of International Information and Cultural Affairs replaced the IIIS and formed the nucleus of what later became the United States Information Agency, or USIA, in 1953.8 While the USIA gave the U.S. government a way to communicate U.S. goals and objectives to foreign audiences, the military continued to struggle for a more expansive PSYWAR role that could support military operations and overseas interagency initiatives during peacetime.

In 1959, Murray Dyer suggested political communications as an umbrella term for concealing the three separate branches — psychological warfare, information and propaganda — of PSYWAR.

In a 1952 campaign speech in San Francisco, Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke of the value of PSYWAR:

We must adapt our foreign policy to a "cold war" strategy … a chance to gain a victory without casualties, to win a contest that can quite literally save peace. … In this war, which was total in every sense of the word, we have seen many great changes in military science. It seems to me that not the least of these was the development of psychological warfare as a specific and effective weapon.9

From then on, psychological warfare rose to national strategic significance in an East vs. West war of images and ideas — the Cold War. As retired Colonel Al Paddock shows in his book, U.S. Army Special Warfare: Its Origins, maintaining PSYWAR as a viable capability during World War II and afterward was a constant but worthwhile battle that gave us the ability to influence foreign audiences in a manner favorable to U.S. national-security objectives. It is not surprising that in the same year as Eisenhower's speech, the Psychological Warfare Center was established at Fort Bragg, N.C., in recognition of PSYWAR's importance and credible ability to influence foreign audiences in war and peace. The Army appreciated the need for talented young officers who had the education, experience or aptitude for the art of influence to join the PSYWAR ranks, and the PSYWAR Center, later the Special Warfare Training Center, began providing the Army's cadre of professional "psywarriors" who would later take their understanding of the art of influence to war in Vietnam.

By its very nature, PSYWAR fit well with combat operations, but during the post-combat consolidation and stabilization phases, its credibility began to erode. As during the post-World War II period, there were efforts to disguise PSYWAR as something else during the less-than-hostile phases of military operations. Paddock says that in Vietnam, counterinsurgency, unconventional warfare and guerrilla warfare could not have been waged effectively without PSYOP as a valuable enabler and force multiplier.

From Vietnam to the present, psychological operations have risen to respectability and credibility within our Army and the Department of Defense. While there was another postwar lull in interest in PSYOP after Vietnam, the most profound increase in numbers and interest in PSYOP forces occurred during the mid- to late 1980s. The impact of President Ronald Reagan's National Security Decision Directive 77 (1983), the Department of Defense PSYOP Master Plan (1985) and the Goldwater-Nichols Act (1987) provided permanent PSYOP staff authorizations within the Joint Staff, the Department of the Army and the U.S. Special Operations Command, as well as the permanent establishment of two reserve-component PSYOP groups, an enlisted military occupational specialty (37F), the recognition of the importance of PSYOP planning at combatant commands and the modernization of PSYOP equipment — all improvements that were absent during any other postwar period in our military history.10

The activation of the 4th PSYOP Group headquarters and four battalions during Vietnam, the activation of the PSYOP Regiment in 1998, the creation of the PSYOP Branch (37A) in 2006 and the existence of three PSYOP groups today show remarkable steps ahead in the Army's ability to convey messages to affect foreign audiences' behavior.11

In 1962, the term psychological warfare changed to psychological operations to address the demands of a "more expansive role" in general and to meet the mission demands of counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare in particular. In today's operating environment, the Army finds itself asking a similar question about PSYOP in the war on terrorism. The question now is whether or not MISO will serve as an appropriate substitute for PSYOP and a new term of reference for DoD's most credible inform-and-influence capability not only in the war on terror but in all forms of military and interagency engagements.


For the purposes of this article, our analysis and definition will remain within the Army's domain. That is not to suggest that what was PSYOP and is now MISO is not a joint force or capability. MISO is inherently joint, yet the forces and capabilities to execute it for the DoD reside predominantly in the Army. There are more than 2,000 active-duty PSYOP Branch Soldiers, most of whom are assigned to the Army Special Operations Command's 4th Military Information Support Group (formerly the 4th PSYOP Group), and twice that number are assigned to the two Army Reserve groups (the 2nd and the 7th). Those active-duty and reserve forces conduct operations planned to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately, the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups and individuals.12 More simply stated, MISO is communications to influence human attitudes and behavior. The targeting of foreign governments, organizations, groups and individuals is the most revealing feature of the more detailed definition, because it reflects intentions and potential actions that extend beyond the tactical level of war and are not exclusive to combat. Likewise, the mere idea that we might convey "selected information" parallels methods akin to those of propaganda (a lesson for a revised MISO definition).

In the information age, PSYOP's relevance across the continuum of conflict and functionality at multiple levels of warfare was tenuous, at best. On the one hand, there was and still is no debating the relevance of PSYOP at the tactical level. One cannot convincingly argue that there is such a thing as strategic PSYOP, because no senior government official will ever admit that they conduct propaganda. In fact, in 1999, then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright closed the USIA to ensure that she and the rest of the State Department dissociated themselves from any possibility that propaganda was being developed and disseminated anywhere on behalf of the U.S. government.13 While one might argue that the U.S. government cannot separate itself from propaganda by simply eliminating an agency, the argument itself is beyond the analytical scope of this discussion. Other attempts to disguise operational- and strategic-level propaganda have increased confusion and reduced the clarity of our message.14 Likewise, while one can see opportunity by changing the name PSYOP to MISO, there will still be lingering suspicion and innuendo given the gradual changes in lixicon, doctrine, training, education, leader development and force management that will occur over time.

Does MISO's reach extend across all levels of war?

The combatant commands and the interagency are typically not inclined to refer to "PSYOP" when they are considering influencing populations in their area of responsibility. At the operational level, the preference is to conceal PSYOP's apparently untruthful tendencies and unscrupulous underpinnings. White or "pure" PSYOP has been disguised as "Military or Defense Support to Public Diplomacy," "International Public Information" or, in some other instances, simply IO, to lessen the scrutiny and allegations that might come with using PSYOP in a peacetime environment.15

The U.S. government, through the State Department, uses PD as a means of "engaging, informing and influencing key international audiences about U.S. policy and society to advance America's interests which is practiced in harmony with public affairs (outreach to Americans) and traditional diplomacy to advance U.S. interests and security and to provide the moral basis for U.S. leadership in the world"16 (one might think MISO could harmonize with PA, too).17

Does today's MISO parallel PD?

In years past, PSYOP and diplomacy did not easily mix, but the desire to inform and influence foreign audiences was of mutual concern. Despite good intentions, PSYOP's negative connotation and brand image required PD to collaborate cautiously, assume a safe distance and maintain deniability, or risk guilt by association. So how then did the former practices and principles of PSYOP get synchronized with those of "well intentioned" diplomats and our so-called PSYOP specialists? Simply put, PSYOP had to become more compatible and persuasive by using other names to refer to itself, demilitarizing its lexicon, and describing its functions as more inclusive of commercial activities, public relations and cross-cultural-communications constructs. De facto, the military information support team had become synonymous with the PA and PD partnership, which had markedly increased accessibility, reduced suspicion and lessened the potential for guilt by association — providing sufficient basis for today's MISO.

Accordingly, support of regional combatant commanders and U.S. country teams' theater-security cooperation initiatives has been provided by a military information-support team. Similarly, as contingency operations like Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan transitioned to less-than-hostile phases of operations, PSYOP task forces changed to softer, more sophisticated product-development and –dissemination, under the guise of information task forces, further relieving accessibility challenges, misgivings or suspicion.

As if things were not confused enough, PA, PSYOP and PD have been categorized as influence operations, strategic communication, perception management, soft power and strategic influence.18 Retired Colonel Fred Walker adds, "We might use the term 'persuasive communications' to mean the same thing as psychological operations."19 MISO is a reasonable compromise, given the many nondescript and confusing terms of reference that might be used to encapsulate what PSYOP once was and what MISO really has the potential to be.


The various terminologies sometimes complicate our understanding and hinder our ability to redefine PSYOP in the information age so that we can introduce a more inclusive concept like MISO. Information operations, for example, are the integrated employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological operations, military deception and operations security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial decision-making while protecting our own.20 The simplest way to think of the difference between information operations and historical PSYOP is that IO is the integrator, whereas PSYOP was the instigator.21

In an article that retired Major General David Grange wrote on Bosnia, he used information operations and psychological operations interchangeably. Similarly, in a book about the war planning for Iraq, Bob Woodward points out how Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld referred repeatedly to PSYOP from leaflet drops to Commando Solo broadcasts as information operations.

Nathaniel Fick, author of the book, One Bullet Away, stated in an oral presentation about his experiences in Iraq that as he and his recon platoon crossed into the southern portion of the country, nine out of 10 Iraqis surrendered without fighting, which he contends was the result of an "intense IO campaign that dropped leaflets and broadcasted surrender appeals."22 Similarly, there are many flag officers and senior Pentagon officials who cannot comfortably use the term PSYOP in forums in Washington and elsewhere, so, in its place, information operations has become a more appropriate and subtle substitute.23

There is much discussion about the future of IO in our Army, and suffice it to state that if it is economically and operationally practical and purposeful to retain this redundancy, then there is no need to assume that there are any efficiencies to be gained from combining the IO and PSYOP officer corps. On the other hand, if there is evidence that IO and PSYOP redundancies or staff fratricide do exist, then we should pursue a construct that builds a MISO plus IO (and PA) career force from the bottom up. There is no question that affecting adversary decision-making begins with a psychological appreciation of the target audience. That said, then it logically flows that MISO gains the advanced understanding of IO tools and techniques to further discourage or defeat the target of influence. Therefore, the convergence of the two officer career fields offers practical, purposeful and economic solutions for DoD and our nation.

Speaking in 2005 to the Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities, General Doug Brown, the former commander of the United States Special Operations Command, said, "Dissemination of truthful information to foreign audiences in support of U.S. policy and national objectives is a vital part of the special-operations force's effort to secure peace."24 Admiral Eric Olson, the USSOCOM commander, has repeatedly made the same point, which he has stressed emphatically in the replacement of the term PSYOP with MISO. Admiral Olson has made the point that MISO has no business associating itself with such ventures as deception that rely on misperceptions and misinterpretations of the facts among target audiences (MISO must and will be truth-based).

The Geneva-Hague Convention's laws of armed conflict outline the legal and ethical limitations for the conduct of military operations, including PSYOP. Moreover, DoD regulations, instructions and policy directives outline PSYOP permissions, as well as release and approval authorities. Joint Pub 3-53, Doctrine for Joint PSYOP, and other doctrinal publications reiterate the legal limitations on psychological operations. Ultimately, the authority to conduct PSYOP resides with either the president or the secretary of defense. For MISO Soldiers to conduct operations within the continental U.S., the secretary of defense must issue a deployment-and-execution order that delineates the objectives, themes, timing, duration and types of information to be disseminated in support of military operations or lead federal agencies. Therefore, MISO authorities to deploy and execute operations are tightly controlled and are kept within the acceptable norms of American culture.

Today, the Department of Defense conveys truth through two messengers: PA and MISO. PA assets consist largely of staff assistants, journalists, correspondents and small detachments capable of gathering and disseminating military news for domestic consumption. MISO (AC/USAR PSYOP), by contrast, has larger tactical and operational units with the skills and resources needed to capture, develop, produce and disseminate multimedia products that can be used to inform and influence foreign audiences. Because MISO and PA must have the trust of the target audience, and because trust and credibility depend on facts, truth forms the foundation of both MISO and PA.26 Absent the untruthful stigma of PSYOP, MISO offers PA a vital partner in DoD's capacity to craft a unified message and speak with one voice.

Regardless, each of DoD's messengers subscribes to truth as a critical ingredient in securing and shaping a credible relationship with its audience. PA and MISO claim proprietorship to the same truth, yet one might ask, "If PA and MISO tell the same truth, then why are there two messengers and two distinct military career fields?" Having a wall between PA and MISO is counterproductive during an era when we are experiencing persistent budget cuts, manpower reductions, and declining brand loyalty and image in a more media enriched, culturally diverse, and technologically sophisticated global market. If correctly defined, MISO might offer some relief from propaganda's pejorative past and find itself even more inclusive of PA-like competencies, cooperation and collaboration.

Today's self-proclaimed purists in PA, PD and the national media detest any association with propaganda, yet they "spin" messages without full disclosure. PD promotes U.S. foreign-policy objectives by "seeking to understand, inform and influence foreign audiences and opinion makers, and by broadening the dialogue between American citizens and institutions and their counterparts abroad."27 As Joseph Nye states, "Skeptics who treat public diplomacy as a euphemism for broadcasting government propaganda miss the point. Simple propaganda lacks credibility and thus is counterproductive."28

The Pentagon has stated: "The media coverage of any future operation will to a large extent shape public perception in the United States." PA officers steer media toward stories, interviews and photo opportunities, all intended to have the desired influence and affect.29 Even the Army has recognized the importance of information to the current and future fight. Army Field Manual 3-0, Operations, states that information is the commander's business.

The 2004 Defense Science Board's Study on Strategic Communication examined the relationship between PD, PA and white PSYOP in order to create consistency of message and maximize our national tools of influence.30 There is little question that prejudice stems from PSYOP's origins in propaganda and psychological warfare, although with time, that stigma has become more fiction that fact.

Assuming that we could isolate the functionality of pure PA and dark PSYOP (deception) at opposite ends of an information continuum, we could use MISO in the middle as an operational construct that links the core competencies of foreign public and community relations, media operations, public information and communication, military marketing/advertising/branding, and crisis communications as the informational and influential means of communicating our military's message.31

END: MISO in the middle

The brighter side of PSYOP's historical record highlights some incredibly ingenious, innovative and imaginative methods for winning the "hearts and minds" of select foreign audiences and compelling many enemies to surrender without fighting. Current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are full of such successes. PSYOP assumed a leading role in the formation of the information task forces in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and employed a myriad of inform-and-influence techniques, from traditional face-to-face key-leader engagements to leveraging leading-edge technologies for delivering more precise and more purposeful messages. From surrender appeals to weapons buy-back to national-pride programs to publicizing federal and local elections, PSYOP has delivered convincingly credible and truthful information for effect.

Ninety-five percent of psychological operations have reflected factual and truthful information, full disclosure without manipulation and a genuine intent to inform. The remaining five percent were either unacknowledged communications or outright blunders that tended to capture the most criticism and public interest, yet they typically were not performed by uniformed PSYOP personnel.32 MISO lacks any ability to counteract those misrepresentations that tend to overshadow the tens of thousands of more influential messages and positive informational activities that have been employed from Iraq to Indonesia.

In the contemporary information environment, the term PSYOP has become inextricably tied to political "doubletalk" akin to deception, disinformation and other lies or falsehoods. An understanding of MISO today has to consider the weight imposed by the historical baggage of propaganda, PSYWAR and PSYOP. While the bright side of the historical record is full of some incredibly ingenious and imaginative ways to influence foreign audiences in divisive, coercive and persuasive ways to compel them to surrender without fighting, there are also some less favorable memories of trickery and disinformation representative of the darker side of PSYOP history.

From World War I until Vietnam, PSYWAR was generally reserved for "wartime use only." From Vietnam until the present however, the size and capabilities of PSYWAR's successor PSYOP force have increased three times over their original configuration, and improvements in technology have increased, as well. The combination of those two factors and the competencies of the PSYOP officer branch and enlisted career field have increased the military's power to inform and influence exponentially. To achieve the positive brand recognition needed to maximize MISO's potential to inform and influence, however, we continue to use euphemisms to disguise historical PSYOP terms.

Umbrella terms like strategic communication, strategic influence, military support to public diplomacy and information operations are confusing references to our ability to communicate a persuasive or truthful message to a particular audience and more often than not have been simply euphemisms for PSYOP. Despite the best of intentions, possible linkages of the umbrella terms with PSYOP risked sacrificing message credibility with the target of influence. MISO, by contrast, assumes more truthful connotation and clear associations with methods of communication, as well as greater interface with IO and PA to create the intended inform-or-influence effect.33

While PA might claim that its message is intended for U.S. domestic audiences and international media, current operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere suggest otherwise. Operational lessons learned and future concepts indicate that PA is able to persuade with a purpose and can partner with a transformed MISO force in order to effectively speak with one voice. To assist the warfighter, MISO can communicate intent, confirm or deny the adversary's perceived ideas, introduce new facts and new ways to interpret the situation, and counter disinformation coming from outside sources. In February 2005, the U.S. Joint Forces Command published a future-concepts paper that stated that PA has a vested interest in maintaining an ability to develop and deliver timely messages and images to produce desired effects. Similarly, the Army's Field Manual 3-13, Information Operations, states that PA shapes the information environment by preparing command themes and messages aimed toward the belligerent government, hostile forces and its civilian population.34 Reading between the lines, it appears that the PA approach has become quite compatible with MISO synchronization and with communicating the truth to gain the desired effect.

A MISO, IO and PA partnering would have six important effects: (1) It would eliminate unnecessary redundancies in manpower and function at all echelons (G7); (2) It would increase the level of talent and sophistication in each of the career fields (officer and enlisted) in an overarching information corps; (3) It would normalize the narrative, create message consistency and improve content; (4) It would increase message timeliness, precision and relevance; (5) It would close the gaps between MISO, IO and PA and leverage the best talents of all three; and ultimately, (6) It would reduce operational redundancies and provide a common lexicon upon which we could finally speak and ally more closely.35

Historical PSYOP and PA could be opposites that attract by virtue of having MISO in the middle to fill the Army's inform-and-influence capability gap (as PD has done for the State Department). Likewise, IO and PSYOP have worked at cross-purposes, lacked compatibility, confused commanders and unnecessarily complicated operations. At this juncture, unity of effort and singleness of purpose seem practical and prudent, given competing fiscal and manpower requirements. An IO and PSYOP/MISO merger is both meaningful and mandatory, given lessons learned, and most probable, given future operational demands.36 All considered, message consistency, precision, content, relevance and timeliness will seal the information seams with a renewed standard of influencing excellence: IO, PA and MISO all-inclusive.37

Ultimately, MISO must speak to more than just PSYOP: It must be more inclusive, be compatible with information-age constructs, employ IO tools and techniques, adapt to emerging technologies and be resilient to perpetual scrutiny from those suspicious of government authority or DoD sources of information. An inclusive MISO construct would capture the many methods (IO/PA) of informing and influencing.

MISO cannot be completely appreciated without clear association to multimedia, marketing, mass-communications, crisis and public communications, and community or public relations that would counteract any preconceived notions that MISO is nothing more than PSYOP by another name. MISO must be more: inclusive, convincing, compelling, persuasive, accurate and truthful. MISO cannot be connected with the sinister or misleading aspects of its ancestry. MISO must have only one shade of truth — white.38

This article has discussed four important nuances regarding our historical PSYOP. First, by definition, PSYOP was always more than simply tactical operations — MISO will make that even more obvious. Second, the historical record validates operational- and strategic-level effects and the need for coordination — full-spectrum MISO. Third, the use of PSYOP during peace or operations other than war always necessitated the use of euphemisms — MISO can be more easily understood. Fourth, PSYOP, PA, IO and PD have more similarities than differences — MISO is the connective tissue that can link all of them. In the end, the purpose of MISO will be to inform and influence foreign audiences with cultural precision and the intended effect — there are no other credible DoD options.

Colonel Curtis Boyd is the chief of staff at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School. In 1995, he began a series of operational tours in the 4th Psychological Operations Group, in which he has served as a detachment commander, group operations officer, battalion executive officer and group commander. His other special-operations assignments include information operations officer at the Joint Special Operations Command; deputy director of the SWCS Directorate of Special Operations Proponency; and commander of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group. Commissioned as an Infantry officer in 1984, he served tours with Infantry units in Germany and at Fort Bragg, N.C. He has served in a variety of operations, including Just Cause, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Uphold Democracy, Joint Endeavor, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. In addition to holding a bachelor's in interdisciplinary studies from Norwich University, Colonel Boyd is a 1992 graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School's special operations and low-intensity conflict curriculum, a 1994 graduate of the Defense Language Institute and a 2004 fellow at Harvard University's JFK School of Government.


1. For Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision, see Office of the Secretary of Defense, memorandum dated 3 December 2010, Subject: Changing the Term Psychological Operations to Military Information Support Operations.

2. For an excellent historical review, see: Paul M. A. Linebarger, Psychological Warfare (Washington, D.C.: Infantry Journal Press, 1948).

3. Frank L. Goldstein, "Psychological Operations: An Introduction," in Frank L. Goldstein and Benjamin F. Findley, eds., Psychological Operations: Principles and Case Studies (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002), 13.

4. Phillip M. Taylor, Munitions of the Mind: A History of Propaganda from the Ancient World to the Present Era, (Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1995 [2nd ed.]), 80.

5. Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Weapons of Mass Deception (New York: Penguin Group, 2003), 12.

6. William E. Daugherty, Psychological Warfare Casebook (Baltimore, Md.: John Hopkins University Press, 1958), 128-30.

7. For an insightful comparative analysis of PSYWAR in the European theatre during World War II and PSYOP support to OIF, refer to: Dr. Cora Sol Goldstein, "A Strategic Failure: American Information Control Policy in Occupied Iraq," Military Review, March-April 2008.

8. Daugherty, 135-39.

9. Daugherty, 28-29; the second portion of the citation was taken from JP 3-53, I-1.

10. Alfred H. Paddock Jr., "No More Tactical Information Detachments," in Frank L. Goldstein and Benjamin F. Findley, eds., Psychological Operations: Principles and Case Studies (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002), 29-32.

11. The 6th PSYOP Battalion, activated in 1965, formed the nucleus of the 4th PSYOP Group, which by 1967 had expanded to four battalions. The 7th PSYOP Group provided the 4th Group backup from Okinawa; Alfred H. Paddock, U.S. Army Special Warfare: Its Origins (Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 2002), 160; Paddock, "No More Tactical Information Detachments," 28-29.

12. Joint Publication 3-53, Doctrine for Joint Psychological Operations (Washington, DC, 5 Sep 2003), I-1.

13. Madeleine Albright, "The Importance of Public Diplomacy to American Foreign Policy," U.S. Department of State Dispatch, 10, no. 8 (October 1999), 8-9; Albright can be credited with the final dismantling of the United States Information Agency, an integral component of the U.S. government's Cold-War propaganda apparatus.

14. See Admiral Michael G. Mullen, "From the Chairman: Strategic Communications, Getting Back to Basics," Joint Force Quarterly, Issue 55, 4th quarter 2009, 2-4. For an assessment of strategic PSYOP, see Cora Sol Goldstein, "A Strategic Failure: American Information Control Policy in Occupied Iraq," Military Review, March-April 2008, 58-65; see also Dr. Carnes Lord, "The Psychological Dimension of National Strategy," in Goldstein and Findley, Psychological Operations: Principles and Case Studies, 73-89.

15. William J. Clinton, "International Public Information," Presidential Decision Directive/NSC-68 (Washington, D.C.: The White House, 30 April 1999).

16. Department of State Web site, Public Diplomacy, <http://www.state.gov/r/>.

17. Refer to Reorganization Plan and Report, Submitted by President Clinton to the Congress on December 30, 1998, Pursuant to Section 1601 of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, as contained in Public Law 105-277, for insight into the Department of State's combining of PA and PD functions.

18. Susan L. Gough, "The Evolution of Strategic Influence," U.S. Army War College strategic-research paper, 7 April 2003. See also: Kim Cragin and Scott Gerwehr, "Dissuading Terror: Strategic Influence and the Struggle Against Terrorism," (Santa Monica, Calif.: Rand Corporation, 2005). Internet accessed <http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2005/RAND_MG184.pdf>; 8 February 2006.

19. Fred W. Walker, "Truth is the Best Propaganda: A Study in Military Psychological Operations," National Guard, October 1987, 27.

20. Joint Publication 3-13, Information Operations (Washington, D.C.: 13 Feb 2005), 132.

21. For more on the expansion of the role of PSYOP in the Information Age as cyber-centric and "net ready," see Raymond Jones Jr., The Role of U.S. Psychological Operations in the New Global Threat Environment (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University, 23 February 2007).

22. Oral presentation for Harvard University, National Bureau for Economic Research, Economics of National Security, former Marine Captain Nathaniel Fick, author of One Bullet Away.

23. Paddock, "No More Tactical Information Detachments," 25-50. His historical review establishes a base from which to understand MISO more succinctly.

24. Testimony of General Bryan D. Brown, U.S. Army, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, before the United States House of Representatives; Committee on Armed Services; Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats And Capabilities, regarding the special-operations command budget request for fiscal year 2005, March 11, 2004. http://www.house.gov/hasc/openingstatementsandpressreleases/108thcongress/04-03-11brown.html>; Internet accessed 5 February 2006.

26. For more discussion about the truth of PSYOP: Fred W. Walker, "Truth is the Best Propaganda: A Study in Military Psychological Operations," National Guard, October 1987; Scott Lucas, "Campaigns of Truth: The Psychological Strategy Board and American Ideology, 1951-1953," International History Review 18, no. 2 (1996), 253-394; Wilson Dizard, Strategy of Truth: The Story of the United States Information Service (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs, 1961); Douglas Waller, "On the PR Battlefield," Time, 13 June 2005, Vol. 165, Issue 24, 13; Director, Joint PSYOP Support Element, Colonel James Treadwell's quote: "We're always going to tell the truth."

27. Joint Pub 1-02.

28. Nye, n.d.

29. Rampton and Stauber, 185; see also: Tammy L. Miracle, "The Army and Embedded Media," Military Review, Sept.-Oct. 2003; Bill Van Auken, "Bush Administration Defends Use of Covert Propaganda in US," World Socialist Web site, 17 March 2005; Accessed 4 February 2006, <http://www.wsws.org/articles/2005/mar2005/prop-m17.shtml>.

30. Joint doctrine manuals lack reference to propaganda, the Army doctrine manuals reveal that Army propaganda is based in truth: white propaganda - message source is known; gray - somewhat known; and black - unknown.

31. Documentation delving into the how-to and "playbook" aspects of the PSYOP craft are detrimentally scarce. See Scott Gerwehr, Elizabeth F. Williams and Russell Glenn, "Influencing Outcomes: Psychological Operations in Urban Conflicts (restricted draft)," DRR-3148-A (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Arroyo Center, November 2003), 73-74.

32. Nelson McCouch III, Army Public Affairs Objective Force (Carlisle Barracks, Penn.: Army War College, 4 March 2003).

33. Retired Brigadier General Huba Wass de Czege offers "military public relations" as an alternative to PSYOP support to the general-purpose force (indicative of a PA and PO mission/function overlap, G7). See Retired Brigadier General Huba Wass de Czege, "Rethinking IO: Complex Operations in the Information Age," Military Review, January-February 2008, 14-26 (http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20081231_art006.pdf), accessed 2 January 2011.

34. Joint Forces Command, Joint Public Affairs Support Element: Improving Public Affairs Capability for the Joint Force Commander (Norfolk, Va.: USJFCOM, February 2005), 5; Field Manual 3-13, Information Operations (Fort Leavenworth, Kan., November 2003), 2-23.

35. For a similar discussion of merging IO/PO (+) career fields, see Major George C.L. Brown, "Do We Need FA30? Creating an Information Warfare Branch," Military Review, January-February 2005, 39-43.

36. See also Colonel Randolph Rosin, "To Kill a Mockingbird: The Deconstruction of Information Operations," Small Wars Journal, 2009 (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/283-rosin.pdf), accessed 2 January 2011; and Major Walter E. Richter, "The Future of Information Operations," Military Review, January-February 2009, 103-13 (http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20090228_art013.pdf), accessed 2 January 2011.

37. Joint Pub 1-02; Additional consideration includes: develop Strategic Communications career force to capture PSYOP, IO and PA into a single career track, whereby everyone enters initial-entry training at Fort Meade; and those with a SOF option go to Fort Bragg for the PSYOP Specialist Course, while others continue as journalists or IO generalists. After ILE and JPME II, officers are designated as strategic communicators for continued utilization at the joint, combined and interagency levels.

38. Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, "Truth from These Podia: Summary of a Study of Strategic Influence, Perception Management, Strategic Information Warfare and Strategic Psychological Operations in Gulf II," Oct. 8, 2003, also available at <http://www.usnews.com/usnews/politics/whispers/documents/truth_1.pdf>.

This issue

January-February 2011
Volume 24 | Issue 1

Special Warfare, January-February 2011

Special Warfare

Special Warfare is an authorized, official bimonthly publication of the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Fort Bragg, N.C. Its mission is to promote the professional development of special-operations forces by providing a forum for the examination of established doctrine and new ideas.

Views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official Army position. This publication does not supersede any information presented in other official Army publications.