The facts are these:
Information Operations (or “IO”) refers to the United States’ military’s capabilities and plans to influence non-American populations in regions where U.S. forces are engaged. In military parlance, IO is often a supporting plan to strategic operations. For example, no IO plans exist outside of a named operation or mission where U.S. forces are concerned.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) defines IO as:
The integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.
In joint DOD doctrine, IO is composed of five pillars:
- Electronic Warfare (or EW)
- Computer Network Operations (or CNO)
- Military Information Operations Support (or MISO, formerly known as Psychological Operations or PSYOP)
- Military Deception (or MILDEC)
- Operations Security (or OPSEC)
In 2011, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reassigned policy proponency – to include doctrinal recommendations and overall budget authority – for IO to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, specifically the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, Low Intensity Conflict and Interdependent Capabilities (also called ASD-SOLIC&IC or simply “SOLIC”). The pillars of IO, however, were assigned to individual subordinate entities within DOD: CNO belongs exclusively to U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM), MISO was transferred to U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the Joint Staff assumed control of OPSEC, MILDEC, and EW. These subordinate commands are essentially responsible for organizing resources, plans and strategy for their pillars and submitting them to SOLIC for overall coordination and approval.
Each service of the U.S. military trains and organizes its own IO personnel and assigns them to geographic combatant commands where they are deployed as part of joint task forces to assist in the development of IO plans and strategies. Each service, however, takes a slightly different approach to their own IO doctrine, which can lead to varying levels of ability and training in IO personnel. The U.S. Army is widely recognized as the service with the most capability and professionalized education in IO due to its long history of developing information warfare doctrine. Ultimately, however, and by law, Joint doctrine for IO supersedes any service-specific policy, strategy, plan, or resource.
- Revising Information Operations Policy at the Department of Defense (mountainrunner.us)
- What are Information Operations? (au.af.mil)
- Joint Publication 3-13: Joint Doctrine for Information Operations (fas.org)
- WTF Is Public Diplomacy??? (mustbeawesome.com)